The early morning headline from yesterday's full-squad workout was Masahiro Tanaka throwing his latest bullpen session. It was a step up in intensity for him, 40 pitches of harder throwing than he had been doing, and both Tanaka and Larry Rothschild felt good about how the session went:
Tanaka- “I think I was throwing with more force than the last bullpen. As far as hitting the spots, the location goes, I think it was better than the last bullpen as well. … I feel that I’m on the right track. Going through the workouts and going through the bullpen today also, it does give me confidence that I’m moving in the right direction.”
Roth- “He threw great. Everything is progressing the way we like, so we’ll just keep going. … No (restrictions). We’re just bringing him along at a pace that he’s more accustomed to. A little different schedule as far as not trying to put a lot of pitches on him in a three- or four-day period, but still get him built up and get the stamina built up. That’s pretty much what we’re doing.”
Rothschild's comment on the lighter early schedule is noteworthy simply because it plays into the idea of using a 6-man rotation that's been gaining steam. Matt I. discussed that idea recently and it's not hard to see the value in trying it when you're in the situation the Yankees are in with their rotation health concerns. If nothing else, it appears as though they are going to try that out in Spring Training and see what happens.
More importantly, and getting back to the health concerns, this was another positive step for Tanaka and another reason to not get sucked into the fake worry cycle that's trying to get itself spinning. Johnette Howard of ESPN posted this article yesterday evening comparing the Mets' and Yanks' situations with their aces and their elbow injuries. The general premise of the article was that the Mets were tough and smart for how they handled Matt Harvey and the Yankees were scared and stupid because of how they handled and are currently handling Tanaka. It included words like "damaged" and "compromised" to describe Tanaka's elbow, and despite not having any direct quotes from Yankee or medical personnel nor making reference to the fact that every doctor who examined Tanaka recommended rest and rehab over surgery, Howard basically implies that Tanaka's elbow is going to fall off at any minute and the Yankees are pee-in-their-pants scared about it.
It's a blatant anti-Yankee spin piece and it's one that doesn't deserve the concern and worry it was surely written to elicit. These are the facts on Tanaka's elbow: Rest and rehab was the recommended treatment route from the minute the UCL tear was first diagnosed; Tanaka followed that path and was able to return to game action at the end of last season without any pain or re-tearing; he participated in a regular offseason workout and throwing program and completed that without any pain or re-tearing; He has had multiple follow-up exams on his UCL since the rest and rehab were completed and none of them have shown any new or worsening physical damage; He's in camp throwing right now, reportedly throwing well, and doing so without any pain or discomfort at all in his elbow.
Now that's not to say there isn't a chance that he will re-tear the ligament and need TJS, but that's a chance that is always there. It's there for Tanaka and Harvey both this year, along with every other pitcher in baseball, and no difference between how their teams treated their injuries affects that. Tanaka and the Yankees have followed their doctors' recommendations from day 1 of his injury, and they've done so without any setback. Nowhere in there is there legitimate reason for panic or extra worry, so please don't fall into the trap of getting extra worried. Just be happy that he's healthy, hopeful that he can stay that way, and excited about him getting back out there and striking fools out.