LADY AT THE BAT: Yankees' Tanaka Passes First Test In Return From Disabled List

Monday, September 22, 2014

Yankees' Tanaka Passes First Test In Return From Disabled List

That sudden gust of wind coming from the Bronx on Sunday afternoon was Yankees Universe, from the front office down to the fans, exhaling as Masahiro Tanaka walked off the mound with his right elbow still intact.

As Bernadette pointed out yesterday, the real test will be how Tanaka feels in the days after his start, but it was a definite relief to see him back on a major league mound again.

Tanaka looked a little rusty in the early going but, as he did for the first half of the season, he was able to limit the damage and shut down a powerful Toronto lineup while throwing his breaking pitches enough to show he wasn’t hesitant to do so. He lasted 5.1 IP, threw exactly 70 pitches with 48 for strikes while giving up 1 ER. For his first time back on the mound that's fine.

As the Yankees chances of making the playoffs continued to dwindle this season, it became an open argument as to whether it made sense for the team to bring Tanaka back at all. One camp argued that it was pointless to do so and risk injury in a lost season. The other camp argued for letting Tanaka back on the mound because, if his UCL tear got worse from pitching, it would be better to know this in September 2014 than in March / April 2015.

I fell into the second bucket, and am quite glad Tanaka pitched on Sunday and is getting at least one more start under his belt in 2014. If Tanaka feels fine throughout the week and can make his final regular season start on Saturday, that’s just one less unknown to worry (or worry less) about heading into next year.

By any measure, 2015 is going to be a year full of change: a new full-time shortstop for the first time since 1996, players returning from injuries or suspension and an A.L. East that is the strongest in the league. It will be a tough transition but, a healthy Tanaka, will help make it a smoother one.

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