After being diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in July, New York Yankees rookie Masahiro Tanaka has been rehabbing diligently in hopes that he'll not only avoid Tommy John surgery, but return and contribute to New York's rotation's again during the 2014 season.
Until Friday, anyway, the news had been surprisingly encouraging. Tanaka had passed several important tests, including most recently throwing a 49-pitch simulated game on Thursday, which seemingly put him on track for a September return.
However, the news on Friday was a little less encouraging for the Yankees new ace.
Tanaka is experiencing general arm soreness. He will return to NY to do some strengthening exercises. No appointments scheduled with doctors— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) August 29, 2014
Tanaka said the pain is "throughout the arm" and isn't specifically in elbow. Said that he wasn't worried.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) August 29, 2014
Tanaka isn't worried, but manager Joe Girardi certainly has his concerns.
"There's obviously concern, but I think we play it out this week to see where we're at," Girardi said. "He's going to continue to play catch and do some exercises that a pitcher would normally do, and we'll go from there.
"We're going to proceed, and it's either going to be he's healthy or he needs surgery."
It's probably good news that there's not enough concern to schedule another doctor's visit right away. That said, it's a little surprising the Yankees wouldn't have the elbow closely examined again, just to give them an idea of where he currently stands. If the MRI looks good, great, proceed with his rehab when the arm has recovered, but maybe more with an eye toward 2015. If no progress has been made, now would be the time to reconsider having the surgery if they hope to have him back at all late in the 2015 season.
We're talking about a $155 million investment here. While this season isn't lost yet, Tanaka at anything less than one-hundred percent wouldn't provide the difference maker they need anyway. There's no sense continuing to push beyond this point unless there's reason to believe real progress has been made, and any time that's wasted now could cost them time (and money) down the line.
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