The Yankees were rained out on Thursday afternoon (the game will be made up Sept. 25), but they won’t skip struggling starter Masahiro Tanaka as a result.
Tanaka will take the ball on Friday night when the Bombers open up a three-game series with the A’s at Yankee Stadium. The 28-year-old righty has surrendered 14 earned runs on 16 hits in just 4.2 innings over his last two starts combined.
“Obviously we want everybody playing to their capabilities at all times, but that’s just not how the game works. It’s just about managing through the down times, and that’s what we’re all here for,” Brian Cashman said Thursday. “Right now he’s in a down stretch and we’re looking forward to getting him up and running to what we’re used to seeing.”
Many have wondered if Tanaka is pitching hurt, especially since he’s been pitching through a partial UCL tear since 2014.
“We’ve done the ‘CSI: The Bronx’ on him a number of different times where we’ve gone through the analytics comparison from when he’s flying high to the current low, and there are no indicators other than the splitter’s not splitting like it usually does and the command of the fastball is off,” Cashman said. “But in terms of velocity — even swings and misses in the zone, a lot of background statistics that you try to study to try to measure certain things that are alarming in nature that are off. So we can’t point to anything other than the fact that I don’t think his splitter is as good as it’s been. I know that for a fact. His splitter’s not performing up to what his past standard has been.”
Indeed, according to FanGraphs, Tanaka is averaging 91.2 mph with his fastball and opponents are hitting .244 against his splitter as compared to his career averages of a 91.6 mph fastball and a .180 BA against his split. Asked about the possibility of doing a precautionary MRI, Cashman responded, “You only go to those extreme steps if there’s a reason to do so. You would need a complaint to go ahead and take an extreme measure like that.”
Tanaka could in theory be pitching through discomfort, but he’d have to report that to the team, something players don’t always want to do because of their competitive nature, preferring to tough it out instead of getting shut down.
Jacoby Ellsbury was officially placed on the 7-day concussion disabled list, with Rob Refsnyder being promoted from Triple-A Scranton. There is no timetable for Ellsbury’s return due to the unpredictability of head injuries. Aaron Hicks will become the everyday center fielder, while Brett Gardner also has experience at the position. Refsnyder was hitting well in the minors and was already on the 40-man roster, making it an easy decision while also factoring in his versatility in the field as well.
As part of their Thursday HOPE Week event to surprise children with pediatric brain cancer, Yankees starters Masahiro Tanaka (Ninja Turtle), CC Sabathia (Superman), Luis Severino (Iron Man), Michael Pineda (Wolverine) and Jordan Montgomery (Captain America) all dressed up as superheroes. Brian Cashman (Spiderman) and Jenny Steinbrenner (Cinderella) also dressed up for the event.