TANAKA ON THE DL: IS HE THE LAST PIECE TO FALL?

 By Luis Vazquez

 Masahiro Tanaka, the 25 year old Japanese pitching sensation, who the New York Yankees acquired this season, is the latest New York young pitcher to be injured. He has been placed on the 15 day DL after complaining about his elbow after his recent loss to Cleveland, his third in his last four starts after his rest periods were adjusted.

And for Yankees fans, as it was last year with the Mets’ Matt Harvey, there is every hope that Tanaka will recover if he has to undergo Tommy John Surgery.

The fear and frustration around the Yankees is that their recent misfortunes have now visited their ace as undergoing the surgery is possible after being diagnosed with a slight tear in the UCL ligament of the elbow. History tells us that this type of injury is a systematic breakdown that will end in the words "Tommy John" the pitcher who made this procedure famous.

“It’s obviously something." manager Joe Girardi said. "I'm not saying it's a significant injury. He must have felt that it was affecting him a slight bit. We felt it was best to send him back and have an MRI."

However, the Yankees are being cautious, hoping their seven-year investment will be able to be healthy and back on the mound soon.  If the six-week rest period and treatments do not work, Tanaka faces surgery and lost for the season. And there is the inevitable: If Tanaka is not back until next June, the Yankees with a core of starters on the disabled list, are done for the season.

Tanaka was just awarded a place at the All-Star Game that he will miss, after a season that has been the lone highlight for a Yankee team that has seen three of their five starters injured. Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia are out for the season and Michael Pineda possibly until August. A patched up rotation put together can’t be expected to carry the load, as four-fifths of what was expected to carry the Yankees are sitting on the sidelines.

Tanaka carried the load while getting five days rest that was recently moved to four. It was pointed out that his pitching routine in Japan was customarily five days rest in between starts, a  once a week routine. Possibly, this would explain why power pitchers like Tanaka can go high in pitch counts as they are given sufficient time to recover.

Though, Girardi defended his position on this. "It’s the first time that I think he's gone a couple of starts like this on four days, so it’s an adjustment."  And  perhaps the Yankees demanded too much from their new ace, realizing their chances of winning were that much better with Tanaka on the mound,

If Tanaka ends up with a season ending injury, it would be a serious disappointment for a franchise that has often been criticized for their failure to develop young pitching talent. This was a season that opened with great optimism, and three able starters, in their 20’s, something not seen in nearly twenty years.

But, injuries have made a shambles of that investment as Nova (Tommy John surgery), Pineda (lower back strain) and now possibly Tanaka reminds one of the saying, referring to the plans of “Mice and Men.”

 And the mice are doing better.