New York Yankees Player Profiles: Masahiro Tanaka, does he still have it?

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

The New York Yankees Masahiro Tanaka was born in Itami, Hyogo Japan, on November 1, 1988. He didn’t waste much time; he started playing baseball in the first grade as a catcher in little league. He played
alongside Hayato Sakamoto, who was then the team’s ace pitcher.
They hit next to each other in the lineup.

He continued to play until he reached junior high school when he played both catcher and pitcher due to his strong throwing arm. He played for the Takarazuka Boys but was chosen to the Junior All-South Kansai team in his third year of junior high. He started solely pitching when he moved to Komazawa University in 2004.

In the US, this is like a preparatory high school. While he was there, he led his team to the 87th Championship. With this win, he was given the #1 jersey indicating that he was their ACE pitcher.

Tanaka had developed a good fastball and a hard slider. In the Summer of 2006, his school earned it’s 88th championship and earned a place in the finals. Even though he was ill, he was called in, in the third inning, and he held the opponent to 1 run while he struck out ten. His school was forced into a rematch as it went 15 innings per regulation, and they lost the rematch. But the pitching in both games was so good both pitchers were chosen to play for Japan in the United States-Japan High School Baseball Tournament. In the Japan high school draft, Tanaka was selected by many teams. The Golden Eagles won the draft and signed him to a pro contract.

Tanaka pitched well, but Tanaka got off to an utterly dominant start to the 2009 season, pitching a four-hit complete-game shutout against the Hawks in his first start on April 7. That was followed by a one-run complete game against the Marines. Tanaka had an MVP career with the Eagles and became a national hero. Still, on On September 13, 2013, Tanaka set a new NPB record with his 21st consecutive win in the 2013 season in
a 6–2 complete-game victory over the Orix Buffaloes.

Baseball scouts took notice, particularly the New York Yankees. To make a long story short. The Yankees paid the posted 20 million dollar fee to the Japanese league and signed Tanaka to a seven-year $155 million contract.

Masahiro Tanaka becomes a New York Yankee

Tanaka made his Major League debut on April 4, 2014, against the Toronto Blue Jays and gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, ex-Yankee Melky Cabrera. Tanaka would receive his first MLB win in the game, pitching seven innings with eight strikeouts in the Yankees 7–3 win against the Blue Jays.

This is the last year of Tanaka’s contract, and he has had a winning season in each of those years. His best season was 2016 when he went 14-4 for a .778 winning percentage. This past year had a bit of a rough time. The New York Yankees were turning to Masahiro Tanaka this season to take
Luis Severino’s ace role. However, Yankee fans were let down as Tanaka has was not dominant.

He finished the season with an 11-9 record and an ERA of 4.45, which doesn’t scream the dominance that he can have. His inflated ERA was due to a couple of poor outings where Tanaka didn’t survive past the first or second inning. On July 25, he gave up 7 runs in the first inning in a loss to the Red Sox. A big reason for his struggles is that his split-fingered fastball is nowhere near as effective this year as it has been in the past. Yankee hopeful love Tanaka and hope he can regain his previous dominance.

On July 4th Tanaka was hit in the head from a line drive off the bat of fellow teammate Giancarlo Stanton.  His MRIs came out negative, but he has been under concussion protocol, working his way back to his first start of the season tonight. Fans and the Yankee brass will be watching with interest tonight after Tanaka had an excellent spring training. They will be looking to see if he still has it.

Tanaka is a big-time music lover and follower of several Japanese music groups. Tanaka is married to Mai Satoda, former member and former supervisor of the idol group Country Musume and television personality. The wedding ceremony was held in Hawaii in December 2012.  The couple gave birth to a baby boy on February 15, 2016. Masahiro Tanaka will become a free agent upon the completion of this shortened baseball season.

New York Yankees Previews: Masahiro Tanaka takes on the Boston Red Sox tonight

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

Tonight the New York Yankees will again face the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.  The Yankees will start Masahiro Tanaka who will have a herculean job trying to hold down this weak Red Sox team.  Last year in three starts against the rivals, he gave up 22 earned runs.

It will be another nice night for baseball at Yankee Stadium.  It should be partly cloudy with a temperature that will remain at about 80 degrees throughout the game with low humidity.

The Yankees head into tonight’s game with a 5-1 record which in a regular-season equates to 15-3. The Boston Red Sox are 3-5 and sit at the bottom of the AL East. Yes, the bottom, below the lowly Baltimore Orioles that the Yankees swept earlier this week.  However, that being said, if the Yankees are to lose a game in this three-game series, it will be tonight due to Tanaka’s recent inability to hold down the Sox.

The Red Sox will face Tanaka tonight at 7:07 pm at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka will have to get ahead of hitters early in the game to have any chance of coming away with a win.  Last year he had three starts against the Red Sox, in those three starts he only got past the second inning once. There was a time early in his career that he was a Red Sox killer, but it hasn’t been that way in the last few years.

In Tanaka’s career, he has pitched against the Red Sox for the most innings of any opposing team. The Tampa Bay Rays come in second for most inning pitched. If Tanaka is to have any success tonight, he will have to pitch as he did in his one game against the Sox in spring training.  Then he pitched three shutout innings, did not give up a hit, didn’t issue a walk, and racked up five strikeouts. On July 4th Tanaka was hit in the head with a comebacker of the bat of Giancarlo Stanton.  He has been under concussion protocol. This will be his first start of the season.

When the New York Yankees come to the plate at the bottom of the first inning they will face right-hander Zack Godley in his second game of the season. The Red Sox looking to shore up their depleted pitching staff picked up Godley in mid-July.  His first game was in relief where he pitched four scoreless innings while striking out seven against the New York Mets on July 27th.  This will be his first start of the season against a team that has little experience facing the rightly.

Godley has never faced an imposing lineup that he will face tonight. Several of the Yankees are hot and if the Yankees win this one, the long ball will again come into play.  Aaron Judge will be looking to hit a homer to create a record hitting a home run in four consecutive games.

Prediction: Yankees 7-6.

Tomorrow night the New York Yankees will have their final game of the series with the Red Sox before traveling into the unknown with two, at the moment idle days before one game in Baltimore. If the Phillies are cleared to play, those two days may be replacement games with the Phillies. On Sunday James Paxton will take the mound against an unannounced Red Sox pitcher.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.  Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam and join Yankee Fans R US!! Yankee fan group on Facebook.  And join me in the call of games in their game thread!

 

 

New York Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka expected to make season debut on Saturday

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

After a scare early in Summer Camp, Masahiro Tanaka will be making his season debut on Saturday for the New York Yankees. On July 4th, he was struck by a 112 mph come-backer in the head off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton.

Following the injury, Tanaka was sent to New York-Presbyterian hospital for testing. His tests came back clean and was diagnosed with a mild concussion by team staff.

The second-longest tenured Yankee rested for just a few days before being eased into a throwing program. He continued to workout with the team, but was sent to the alternate training site in Scranton once the team hit the road.

Tanaka is finally ready to go in what will be his contract year. He needs to make a good impression in this short season for the Yankees to resign him, if he is still interested.

The Japanese born right-hander had an up-and-down 2019, but managed to sneak onto the all-star team. He ended with an 11-9 record and a 4.45 ERA, but had some struggles in the second half of the season.

Saturday won’t be easy for Tanaka as they face the rival Red Sox in the Bronx. Although Boston is off to a rough start, beating the Red Sox never comes easy.

JA Happ will make his season debut on Thursday in the series finale against the Orioles. Jordan Montgomery will open the Red Sox series on Friday, while James Paxton gets the ball for Sunday night baseball against Boston.

The Yankees will make-up games against the Phillies beginning next Monday.

 

Yankees place Tanaka on the 10-day IL; but he throws 20 pitches and is targeting July 31 to return

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

After the heart of just about every New York Yankees‘ fan stopped for a few seconds on July 4th, when a Giancarlo Stanton screaming liner hit Masahiro Tanaka in the head, it is fair to say that the Japanese star has come a long way and is very close to return.

However, it is now official: Tanaka won’t be part of the Yankees’ active roster during the first week of the season, as the team put him on the 10-day injured list with a concussion, which was the diagnosis after the unfortunate incident.

The assignation on the IL is retroactive to July 19. The right-hander has progressed very nicely, and was healthy enough to throw 20 pitches from the Yankee Stadium mound on Tuesday. Mound work means that a pitcher is very close to returning to action.

An incredible comeback for the Yankees’ star

If you told us that Tanaka would be ready to rejoin the Yankees’ starting rotation roughly a month after being hit in the head by a 112-miles per hour comebacker, we wouldn’t believe it either. He has even said that he feels very lucky and is very aware that the whole incident could have been much, much worse.

During the session, the Yankees’ pitcher did not use a protective screen, as he, according to reports, wanted to prepare for what it will be like to actually be out there again in official games after his concussion scare.

The New York Yankees are expected to have Tanaka throw around 35-40 pitches in his next session on Sunday, as he increases his pitch count and stamina with a soon return in mind. Fortunately, manager Aaron Boone has several options at his disposal to replace Tanaka for a turn or two.

The Yankees and Tanaka have both said that they will take this process step by step, but the tentative return date is July 31, in a game against the Boston Red Sox at home.

Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka takes massive step forward in return

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

The New York Yankees are making progress with their injured players, specifically Aaron Judge and Masahiro Tanaka. The latter of the two took a 112 mph line-drive off of his head, thanks to a Giancarlo Stanton comebacker.

However, despite experiencing minor concussion symptoms the day of, Tanaka was able to return home that night. His impressive recovery and motivation to return to the team has been heroic.

Manager Aaron Boone stated on Thursday that he was “really encouraged” by what he saw from Tanaka in his small sample size of pitches in the bullpen. Despite the fact that the Japanese born pitcher will likely miss the first few games of the regular season, which is scheduled to start on July 23 against the Washington Nationals, he could be back within the next two weeks.

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Ask for his session on Thursday, Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake broke it down for the media:

“Really encouraging,” Blake said. “He was right around 88-91 (miles per hour) in the bullpen. I think it was good to see him step on it and show all his pitches. Feel really good about where he’s at.”

Of course, training toward a regular season start requires much more than one bullpen session. His speed and velocity were quite solid after taking such a daring hit to the head, but his stamina is where things could get problematic.

“Of course, we have to see him continue to respond to the different things we put him through,” Boone said. “So far, every step of the way, we’ve been encouraged by what we keep seeing.”

Ultimately, it boils down to what Tanaka feels he is capable of doing. Anything strenuous could set him back a few days, especially if symptoms return. While there has been nothing but positive sign so far, taking every precaution after a serious injury is necessary.

“What’s the best decision for us and Masa as far as, do we want to build him up entirely at the big league level or do we want him to continue to build up to the point where he’s built up like a starter?” Boone said. “Those will be questions and conversations we’ll have internally and with Masa, for that matter. We’ll see where we are in the next few days, especially after he faces hitters for the first time.”

Well Tanaka continues to rehabilitate, the Yankees will lean on Gerrit Cole, James Paxton, Jordan Montgomery, J. A. Happ, and potentially a young player like Clarke Schmidt or Deivi Garcia.

The Yankees’ starting pitching news we’ve so desperately needed

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole, James Paxton

Injuries here, injuries there, can someone get these out of our hair! That should be New York Yankees‘ strength and conditioning coach, Eric Cressey’s mantra every morning.

The Yankees have been dealing with individual injuries across-the-board, not just in the starting pitching rotation. Whether it be Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, or any other positional player, limiting these issues is essential heading into the regular season.

When players are getting injured before regular play, it is extremely concerning. Their durability might be compromised due to the lack of reps the past few months, and with a 60-game condensed schedule fit into 65 days, limiting fatigue will be a problem.

However, the New York Yankees are slowly getting back some of their star pitchers. Both James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka are expected to be ready with the Yankees returning to action in just one week. Paxton pitched in an intrasquad exhibition game Wednesday evening, giving up back to back home runs to Judge and Stanton. The unfortunate inning can be coughed up to lack of activity, as he has been slowly rehabilitating from having a cyst removed from his lower back several months ago.

Despite the deficient performance, manager Aaron Boone has already named Paxton their number two starter, behind Gerrit Cole.

Here’s a look at the New York Yankees’ starting pitching rotation for the 2020 season:

1.) Gerrit Cole

2.) James Paxton

3.) Masahiro Tanaka

4.) Jordan Montgomery

5.) J.A. Happ

Aside from the five players listed, the Yankees also have a bevy of relief options and starters. They could utilize Clarke Schmidt or Deivi García if need be, but relying more on their trusted players is a priority. With the roster being expanded from 26 to 30 players, the Yankees still have a few more days to iron out their active roster. I imagine it will be heavily composed of relief options, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees utilize an opener throughout the season.

García dominated his opportunity to open an intrasquad game last week. They also have Chad Green available, similar to their 2019 plan. For pitchers like Paxton, who struggled in the first inning, it could be useful do utilize an option like Green or García.

However, the younger of the two is still experimental, and these recent reps against Yankee players gives him essential experience provided the lack of a minor-league season this year.

Nonetheless, the news that we’ve been waiting for is simply based on the progression of health. Of course, the Yankees don’t have Luis Severino after he underwent Tommy John surgery this off-season. The readiness of Paxton and Tanaka should serve the Yankees well, but getting as many reps as possible before Opening Day is essential.

New York Yankees: Aaron Boone names James Paxton number two starter

New York Yankees, James Paxton

Wednesday afternoon New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced that left-hander James Paxton will take the hill for the team’s second game of the 2020 Major League Baseball season on the road against the World Series-champion Washington Nationals on July 25.

Paxton underwent back surgery in March but has been pitching in intrasquad games held at Yankee Stadium as part of MLB’s summer camp.

Paxton is entering his second season with the Yankees. Last season he posted a 3.82 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP and 186 strikeouts across 29 starts (150.2 innings). Paxton made three starts for the Yankees in the 2019 postseason, posting a 3.46 ERA, a 1.54 WHIP and 20 strikeouts across 13.0 innings.

New York acquired Paxton from the Seattle Mariners in November 2018 for left-hander Justus Sheffield, right-hander Erik Swanson and outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams.

Gerrit Cole, who the Yankees signed to a nine-year, $324 million deal in the offseason, is expected to take the hill on Opening Day. The Yankees open the 60-game season on the road against the Nationals on July 23.

After Cole and Paxton will be a combination of Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, Jordan Montgomery and Jonathan Loaisiga. Tanaka is recovering from a head injury suffered by means of a line drive off the bat of Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton in an intrasquad match last week.

Montgomery made 29 starts for the Yankees in 2017 under former manager Joe Girardi and seven since; Loaisiga has made eight career MLB starts.

Boone went with a bullpen day at various points of last season.

Luis Severino, who made 63 starts for the Yankees from 2017-18, made just three regular season starts in 2019 due to a shoulder injury and will be off the mound this season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

The Yankees have three players away from the team after testing positive for COVID-19: infielder DJ LeMahieu, right-hander Luis Cessa and closer Aroldis Chapman.

Yankees’ Aaron Judge ‘getting worked on’, close to return per Aaron Boone

The New York Yankees are preparing for an intrasquad game on Monday evening, featuring Jordan Montgomery as one of the starting pitchers.

However, the big news has revolved around Aaron Judge and a stiff neck that has kept him out the past few days. He has received treatment and reportedly seen positive improvements, according to manager Aaron Boone.

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The Yankees manager commented on whether he would perform in today’s intrasquad matchup:

“He is getting worked on right now, I’d say there is a chance, but we haven’t made that call yet.”

“Yes, when he came in today, there is improvement. Again, he’s getting worked on right now, so will have a good feel for whether he is in or out of the intrasquad here in a little bit.”

The former 2017 AL Rookie of Year winner has dealt with numerous injuries the past few seasons, recently overcoming a stress fracture in a rib suffered last September. The latest issue seems to be nothing more than a stiff neck from sleeping on the wrong side of the bed. He should be ready to go by today or within the next few days.

Fortunately, he was spotted at batting practice before the game on Monday, which is scheduled for 5:15 PM.

Judge is looking for a bounce-back campaign after playing in just 102 contests last season. His .272 batting average last year was the worst over his first three years in the MLB. It was the first season he didn’t earn any accolades, whether it be an All-Star consideration or MVP voting.

Aside from Judge, Masahiro Tanaka is making gradual progress as well. After taking a 112 mph baseball off the head from a Giancarlo Stanton line-drive, Tanaka has been careful with his return.

He’s been participating in light activities to ensure concussion symptoms have alleviated, but the expectation is that he should be back on the mound within the next few days. I imagine he will miss the first few games of the regular season, which starts in nine days, but the Yankees have plenty of talent to supplement his loss in the short term.

Yankees’ Aaron Judge still strained by neck injury, Tanaka concern growing, update here

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

With just 10 days before the start of the regular season, the New York Yankees are trying to alleviate themselves of injury. The latest player to go down was Aaron Judge with a stiff neck, and he’s been receiving ample treatment the past two days.

Judge still remains strained by his sore neck, and he is unlikely to be ready for Tuesday’s intrasquad game. Starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka also remains a question mark as he recovers from concussion symptoms.

”He’s got way more range of motion,” manager Aaron Boone said Monday. ”They’ve gotten a lot of that pain out of there when he turns to the side and things like that.”

The expectation is that judge will return within the next few days, but nothing is cemented just yet. The 2017 AL Rookie of the Year has missed time due to oblique strains, a broken wrist, and a broken rib. Luckily, a majority of his injuries are broken-bone related, meaning it was more freak accidents then muscle issues.

Masahiro Tanaka is working his way back

Boone was confident in Tanaka’s progression, as he has been working on the field lightly as he climbs back from taking a 112 mph Giancarlo Stanton line drive off his head.

”Encouraged but again just also making sure we go slow and smartly with it,” Boone said. ”Obviously he’s not going to be built up very much. I’m kind of a step at a time right now with Masa. … Obviously with an extended roster there’s a little more flexibility there at the start, too, if we have to creatively build him up at some point.”

With the roster being extended from 26 to 30 players, the Yankees are taking it easy with Tanaka to ensure he can play adequately in the long run. Making sure he is 100% healthy and not facing any brain injuries and further symptoms is the right move. The concern is that Masa could miss Opening Day on July 23 and require more time to get into baseball shape since he’s missed the past few games.

Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka positive injury update after taking line-drive to head

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

Imagine taking a 112 mph fastball off your head. That is what Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka experienced off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton, who regularly ranks atop of the league in exit velocity.

Went Tanaka was struck by the comebacker last week, he immediately fell to the ground in pain. He laid motionless for several minutes before walking off under his own power.

Miraculously, Tanaka has managed to return to action extremely fast. He went home the same day after the incident, as his concussion symptoms alleviated.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone updated us on Tanaka’s health:

Tanaka “got his heart rate going a little bit more” and “he responded well,” Boone said. “Still, at this point, taking it slowly. But he’s doing pretty well.”

Tanaka also spent time on the field working out lightly.

“He did that (Tuesday) as well,” Boone said. “He’s been doing his cardio inside, but then wanting to get him outside in the light and moving around a little bit out there. Was able to do a little more of that today but he did that yesterday as well and responded well to it. We’re continuing to move cautiously and slow with him but at least encouraged by how he’s responding to what we’ve put in front of him so far.”

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Tanaka is an essential part of the Yankees’ starting pitching rotation. He has ample experience in the postseason which will pay dividends in a condensed 60-game schedule.

Last year with the Yankees, he posted a 4.45 ERA at 30 years old. He was an All-Star based on the first half of the season but fell off a bit in the second. There is no doubt that he can be an effective pitcher at the MLB level for the next few years, but this is his final year on a seven-year, $155 million deal with the Bombers.

Tanaka has been relatively healthy since his inception in the MLB, pitching no less than 136 innings over six years. The Yankees could elect to extend him based on his efficiency in this campaign, but they will also have to make decisions on J.A. Happ and James Paxton, making Tanaka’s retention a bit more complicated.