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Rapid Reaction: Tanaka goes to DL

7/9/2014

Masahiro Tanaka was put on the DL on Wednesday with inflammation in his right elbow.

What it means: This is a blow for the Yankees, but it could be worse. The fear was the need for Tommy John surgery, and that doesn't appear to be the situation yet. However, team doctor Chris Ahmad hasn't seen Tanaka, so it can't be ruled out.

Still, losing Tanaka for any length of time hurts the Yankees' playoff chances.

Tanaka is one of the early leaders for the AL Cy Young Award and has clearly been the Yankees' MVP. They are 13-5 when Tanaka starts. When anyone else heads out there, their record is 32-39.

The adjustment: The Yankees have tried to ease Tanaka's adjustment from pitching once per week in Japan to once every five days. Until the schedule caught up with them recently, they have made every attempt possible to give him extra rest.

When teams, including the Yankees, were weighing their offers to Tanaka last winter, there were serious concerns about his workload in Japan. For example, he threw 160 pitches in his final start of the Japan Series, then came back the next day to pitch in relief.

This had teams a little worried, but not enough to pass up on signing him. The Yankees got him for a total outlay of $175 million ($155 million to Tanaka and $20 million for the posting fee). Before today, it looked like a great deal. It still might be, but the injury will give the Yankees pause.

Season on the brink: The Yankees might not have been a playoff team this year even if they were healthy. However, four-fifths of their original rotation have been on the DL. Three have had extended stays on the shelf.

CC Sabathia, their former ace, is scheduled to visit Dr. James Andrews on Monday to see if he will need microfracture surgery on his knee, which may be career-ending. Michael Pineda has been sidelined since the pine tar game with a sore upper back/shoulder. Ivan Nova is done for the season after having Tommy John surgery.

Without Tanaka, the Yankees' rotation would likely be: Hiroki Kuroda, David Phelps, Brandon McCarthy, Shane Greene and Chase Whitley. Even with Tanaka, the Yankees may struggle to make the playoffs. Without him, forget about it.

General manager Brian Cashman could make a trade, but the Yankees may be wiser to sell rather than buy in 2014. Cashman has repeatedly said, however, that it is not in the franchise's DNA. Considering the payroll is about $200 million, who can totally blame that thinking? It may not be the wrong move long term.

The standings: The Yankees entered Wednesday night four games behind the Orioles in the AL East and 3½ behind the Mariners for the second wild card. It is looking more like Derek Jeter's final three games might occur at Fenway Park to end the regular season.

Question: Should the Yankees become sellers leading up to the trade deadline?