TORONTO – Injured Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka is being sent back to New York because of general soreness in his right arm, a setback in his bid to rejoin the rotation this season.
“There’s obviously concern, but I think we play it out this week to see where we’re at,” manager Joe Girardi said before Friday night’s game at Toronto.
The Japanese star is 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in his first season in the majors. He hasn’t pitched since July 8 as he recovers from a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, and the Yankees hope he can return for a playoff push.
Tanaka threw 49 pitches in a simulated game Thursday and did not report any unusual pain. On Friday, however, he said his whole arm felt sore.
“I want to be a little bit cautious,” Tanaka said through a translator.
“I haven’t been throwing for a couple of weeks and then I started throwing again and built up the number of pitches. I think that’s the reason there’s a little extra bit of soreness,” he said.
Girardi said it would be “maybe a week” until Tanaka throws his next bullpen session. Until then, he’ll work out at Yankee Stadium every day, and play light catch
“He’s going to continue to play catch and do some exercises that a pitcher would normally do, and we’ll go from there,” he said.
“Right now he’s having a little setback, but let’s hope that’s all it is,” he said.
Girardi acknowledged that the delay increases the likelihood of Tanaka being unable to return this season. Tanaka, however, isn’t giving up on pitching in September.
“We still have a whole month left,” Tanaka said. “I’m going to go ahead and strengthen this and do my best to try to get back.”
Girardi and Tanaka were both encouraged that the pain was not specific to the pitcher’s elbow.
The decision to send Tanaka back to New York was made because the gym and training facilities there are larger and better than those at Rogers Centre, Girardi said.
The Yankees have used 12 starting pitchers this season, their highest total since 2008, when they used 13.