LADY AT THE BAT: Tanaka Sharp As Yankees Beat A's, But Questions Linger

Friday, July 10, 2015

Tanaka Sharp As Yankees Beat A's, But Questions Linger

It was the kind of start Masahiro Tanaka has been waiting for.
Tanaka went deep into yesterday's game and held the A's to just two hits over 7 2/3 innings, all while throwing a season high 114 pitches. Yanks win 6-2. Seems as if they are ready to turn the Yankees' ace loose down the stretch.  Or,  it could be that with the All Star break looming, with Tanaka  making his next start eight or more days from now, that Thursday's pitch count really doesn't matter. That's plenty of rest following a 114 pitch outing.
So questions linger. Will Tanaka now pitch on five day's rest every time out? If Joe Girardi starts Tanaka on Friday July 17th, the first game after the break, Tanaka's next six starts will require a sixth starter on two occasions, perhaps the reason Chris Capuano and Bryan Mitchell are both still on the roster. Then there is the question of health. Is Girardi losing sleep over the prospect of a recurring injury to the wrist or forearm? The big elephant in the room remains the elbow, and the concern is that Tommy John surgery might still be needed, though there is still no indication of such a need.
On the other hand, who is to say that Thursday's start might be the beginning of using Tanaka every fifth day, while pitching deep into games the rest of the season? If Tanaka feels good as the Yankees arrive at Fenway tonight, with no ill effects of his longest outing this season, maybe it will be a sign that Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild can remove the kid gloves and turn their ace loose. Sometimes a layoff of several weeks, such as the time Tanaka spent on the disabled list, means pitching in mid season form down the stretch and into the playoffs. That is exactly what happened with David Cone in 1996 when he had surgery in early May and returned on Labor Day and was a stud all they way through October. While it's not nearly Labor Day yet, and Tanaka will likely rack up a lot more innings than Cone did, he will not approach the 200 innings that is standard for aces these days.  We should probably expect that Tanaka will be handled the same, with an extra days rest, down the stretch as he has all season. The playoffs might present a needed change in strategy, assuming the Yankees make the playoffs.
All Star Thoughts
Brett Gardner absolutely deserves a spot on the American League All Star roster. In addition to the win which gave the Yankees a series win against the A's, news of the Gardner addition to the roster was most welcome. Now, if only the commissioner can admit that this is just an exhibition game and that the location of game seven of the World Series should have nothing to do with the outcome of this game. Just go back to alternating the home field advantage. If that is not a reasonable option, why not pick home field based on the head to head results of interleague play throughout the season? Baseball has by far the best all star game in professional sports, but it is still an exhibition game. The "now it counts" mentality is what gave us a 15 inning marathon at the old Yankee Stadium in 2008, which created unnecessary risk of injuries for players still in that game.

The Trade Deadline
Rumors are flying as to what deals the Yankees might make at the July 31 deadline. I'm still not sold on the rumors of adding a starting pitcher, unless the Yankees decide to shift CC Sabathia to the bullpen, or perhaps deal a starter such as Nathan Eovaldi. Of course, an injury to a starter might change things a bit. Expect the Yankees to actively pursue a trade or two but don't be surprised if it becomes the trade nobody saw coming. Seems to be the Yankee way.


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