Masahiro Tanaka throws simulated game, next step could be Grapefruit League debut

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Whether Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow will hold up this season is anyone’s guess, but so far the news is positive out of Yankees camp.

According to Chad Jennings of the Journal News, Tanaka threw two innings today in a simulated game while facing Yankees prospects Cole Figueroa and Gary Sanchez. Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild was impressed with the outing and said that he’s “exactly where you want him to be at this point in spring training.” While nothing is official, he appears on track to make his Grapefruit League debut next Thursday.

“It’s good to see him get out there and be able to go through all his pitches and have a good day of work and feel good after,” Rothschild said. “If things progress the way they are, I’m very confident he’ll be ready (by Opening Day).”

Tanaka was diagnosed with a partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow last July, but he opted for rehab over Tommy John surgery and made two starts down the stretch. He’s altering his mechanics to protect the elbow, but the Yankees will have to cross their fingers that he can stay healthy. It’s hard to imagine them contending without him.

Tanaka, 26, had a 2.77 ERA with a 141/21 K/BB ratio over 136 1/3 innings in his first season with the Yankees.

Padres fire Andy Green

Andy Green
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The Padres fired manager Andy Green on Saturday, per an official team release. Bench coach Rod Barajas will step into the position for the remaining eight games of the 2019 season.

Executive Vice President and GM A.J. Preller gave a statement in the wake of Green’s dismissal:

I want to thank Andy for his tireless work and dedication to the Padres over the last four seasons. This was an incredibly difficult decision, but one we felt was necessary at this time to take our organization to the next level and expedite the process of bringing a championship to San Diego. Our search for a new manager will begin immediately.

In additional comments made to reporters, Preller added that the decision had not been made based on the Padres’ current win-loss record (a fourth-place 69-85 in the NL West), but rather on the lack of response coming from the team.

“Looking at the performance, looking at it from an improvement standing, we haven’t seen the team respond in the last few months,” Preller said. “When you get to the point where you’re questioning where things are headed … we have to make that call.”

Since his hiring in October 2015, Green has faced considerable challenges on the Padres’ long and winding path to postseason contention. He shepherded San Diego through four consecutive losing seasons, drawing a career 274-366 record as the club extended their streak to 13 seasons without a playoff appearance. And, despite some definite strides in the right direction — including an eight-year, $144 million pact with Eric Hosmer, a 10-year, $300 million pact with superstar Manny Machado, and the development of top prospect Fernando Tatís Jr. — lingering injuries and inexplicable slumps from key players stalled the rebuild longer than the Padres would have liked.

For now, they’ll prepare to roll the dice with a new skipper in 2020, though any potential candidates have yet to be identified for the role. It won’t come cheap, either, as Green inked a four-year extension back in 2017 — one that should have seen him through the team’s 2021 campaign.