Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka got back on the mound today for the first time since he was shut down in early July with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow. While he still has a long way to go before returning to game action, he came out of it just fine.
According to the Associated Press, Tanaka threw a total of 25 pitches. It was all fastballs and he wasn’t throwing at full intensity, but he told Chad Jennings of the Journal News that he was happy with how things went today.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Tanaka said. “So I feel really good about it.”
Tanaka said he wasn’t throwing at 100 percent effort, but he also said this felt like a better session than his first bullpen of spring training.
“I felt that I was able to throw the way that wanted to,” he said. “… I was able to get through it without any pain.”
It’s unclear when Tanaka will throw again, as the Yankees will likely see how he feels tomorrow before deciding on the next step, but he’s hoping to incorporate some offspeed pitches in his next session. The track record for pitchers rehabbing a UCL tear is not very promising, but Tanaka would likely miss all or most of next season anyway if he had Tommy John surgery tomorrow, so the Yankees will continue to take a shot in the dark and cross their fingers.
Tanaka, 25, was 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA and 135/19 K/BB ratio over 129 1/3 innings in his first season stateside prior to the injury.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.