Excellent news for the Yankees and their fans here, as right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw two perfect innings this evening in his Grapefruit League debut against the Braves.
Tanaka struck out two batters and induced four weak groundballs. He topped out at 94 mph and threw 15 out of 19 pitches for strikes while exhibiting good control of his splitter. It’s worth noting that Tanaka got through his two innings so quickly that he finished his night by throwing some more pitches in the bullpen. You really couldn’t ask for much better.
Tanaka was diagnosed with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow last July, but he decided to rehab the elbow on the advice of doctors rather than have Tommy John surgery. He made it back for two starts in September and had a normal offseason, so the Yankees are planning on him being a part of their rotation this year. Who knows if his elbow will hold up, but tonight we can emphasize the positive. If healthy, Tanaka and Michael Pineda could really be something at the top of that rotation.
Chase Utley suffered a mild right ankle sprain when he stepped on a baseball during a workout in early January, so the Phillies didn’t see a need to rush him into Grapefruit League action. However, he’s finally close to making his spring debut.
According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said this afternoon that Utley could serve as the designated hitter as soon as tomorrow. It’s unclear when he’ll be ready to play the field, but the Phillies at least think he’s ready to hit and run the bases, which likely means that he’s not far off.
Of course, knee issues have been the biggest concern with Utley in recent years, but he appeared in 155 games last season while batting .270/.339/.407 with 11 home runs, 78 RBI, and 10 stolen bases. While he made it through the season healthy, his production suffered greatly as the year moved along. He had a .794 OPS in the first half compared to a .673 OPS after the All-Star break.
As you have probably heard by now, actor-comedian Will Ferrell is in the process of playing every position in five Cactus League games today in Arizona. The stunt is being filmed by HBO for an upcoming special from Ferrell’s company, Funny or Die. However, it’s also for a good cause, as memorabilia from the day will be auctioned and the proceeds will go to cancer charities. Our own Craig Calcaterra is on the scene for Cubs-Angels, where Ferrell just played center field for the Angels and coached third base, played first base, and even took an at-bat with the Cubs.
Courtesy of Craig, here’s video of Ferrell as he replaced Mike Trout in center field. That’s not a misprint:
Ferrell actually got an opportunity to field a ball, as Welington Castillo hit a single into center field. As you’ll see in the video below, he picked it up cleanly and hit the cut-off man. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Fun stuff. Our own Aaron Gleeman had perhaps the best reaction to Ferrell’s throw:
Will Ferrell legitimately has a better arm in center field than Ben Revere.
Ferrell didn’t get an opportunity to field a ball when he played first base with the Cubs and he struck out swinging in his at-bat, but here’s a look at Ferrell’s brief stint as a third base coach, complete with cue cards:
Good news for the Tigers’ bullpen, as hard-throwing right-hander Bruce Rondon is ready for his first game action since Tommy John surgery.
According to Jason Beck of MLB.com, Rondon has been cleared to pitch in Thursday’s game against the Phillies. The 24-year-old passed his final test earlier today when he threw 35 pitches in a live batting practice session, mixing in fastballs as well as sliders and changeups. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus called it “very good.”
Rondon is not even a year removed from Tommy John surgery right now, as he was diagnosed with his elbow injury toward the end of spring training last March. However, there’s still still enough time for him to get tuned up for the start of the 2015 regular season if he can avoid setbacks.
Rondon posted a 3.45 ERA and 30/11 K/BB ratio across 28 2/3 innings as a rookie in 2013. He’s capable of emerging as a powerful late-inning arm.
The Rangers received devastating news over the weekend when ace right-hander Yu Darvish was diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. It appears that season-ending Tommy John surgery could be in his future, but assistant general manager Thad Levine told AJ Cassavell of MLB.com that they will wait to announce a plan on Wednesday.
Darvish was scheduled to fly to New York today and will get a second opinion on his elbow from Dr. David Altcheck on Tuesday. He’ll then discuss the situation with the Rangers before a decision is made.
Timing is critical here. If Darvish tries to rehab the injury and ends up having Tommy John surgery anyway, he would be at risk for not only missing all of 2015, but also all of 2016. That’s a pretty big risk with no guarantee of a payoff. It would be a surprise if he doesn’t just go ahead and have the surgery now.