Time for Hiro's return?
BETTER TO KNOW NOW
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The worst that can happen is Masahiro Tanaka leaves the mound clutching his elbow and heads immediately to an operating table.
Still, it would be better to find this out now rather than later.
That is why the Yankees are making the right move when they have Tanaka give it a go Sunday. Tanaka should test out his right elbow now because if it is not up to the intensity of a major league game, the Yankees can send him for Tommy John surgery now and he will be back, ready to go, come 2016.
If they wait until the spring and then find out the elbow is not sound, then suddenly his elbow rehab moves into spring training 2016. He would miss '15 and would be an even bigger question mark for '16.
However the Yankees play it, the clock on Tanaka's elbow will be ticking over their heads. Four experts informed the Yankees that Tanaka could rehabilitate the small UCL tear without surgery. So it is possible this course of action could work, even if there are a lot of doubters.
But consider when you have something medically wrong with you, whom do you usually trust? Do you trust your friends' gut feeling or do you go to the doctor?
In the end, Tanaka may end up needing the surgery. At that point, I'm sure we will hear, "Told ya." But the Yankees didn't want to punt on 2014. They surely don't want to kick away 2015 before it starts.
So maybe they are trying to be optimistic, but at this point they don't have much to lose. They can find out what they have in Tanaka. If he is healthy in two starts to end this year, he will have a positive mindset going into next year and the Yankees can have a little hope.
If not, then at least they know that Tanaka should have enough time to be ready for 2016.
WHY RISK IT?
The Yankees have a lot invested in Masahiro Tanaka. Over the next six seasons, they'll owe the 25-year-old ace $133 million.
Given that, why risk further injury by allowing him to come back and pitch in an MLB game on Sunday?
On July 9, Tanaka was placed on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation. An MRI later revealed a partially torn UCL. Tommy John surgery was discussed, but doctors determined that Tanaka could avoid it by receiving a cortisone shot and resting.
It appeared that his season was over. But it wasn't. Tanaka has been rehabbing and building himself back up. Now it appears that he may pitch again for the Yankees this weekend.
But what's the point?
Why not just let him rest instead of putting him on a mound in what is likely to be a meaningless game given where the Yankees are in the standings?
Since his rookie season in Japan in 2007, Tanaka has logged 1,444 innings and thrown 57 complete games. His right arm could use a rest.
The doctors obviously know what they're doing. So if this is what they recommend, then it's hard to argue. Tommy John surgery typically means at least 12 months of recovery, if not more.
But given what's at stake going forward, it doesn't seem like there's much to gain here for player or team. That's why it would've made more sense to just shut Tanaka down for the rest of the season.
When Derek Jeter retires, Tanaka is going to be one of the team's main attractions. The Yankees need to make sure he's healthy. Is this really the best way to go about doing that?