Masahiro Tanaka has partially torn UCL

Masahiro Tanaka

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman announced Thursday that $155 million dollar ace, Masahiro Tanaka, has a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament.

Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reported the news.

Tanaka has a small tear of the UCL, an injury that, if severe enough would require Tanaka to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. However, the Yankees have a plan in place that, at the moment doesn’t include surgery for Tanaka. He’ll likely be given a platelet rich plasma injection, then depending on how the elbow responds, will begin a throwing program.

The Yankees have to hope Tanaka’s scenario doesn’t end up like another pitcher’s in New York this season.

In April, New York Mets pitcher Bobby Parnell had what was originally believed to be a slight tear of the UCL. The Mets, hoping to avoid surgery, put a near identical plan in place for Parnell as the Yankees have for Tanaka, (PRP injection, rehab, throwing program.) However, it wasn’t long after the plan was in place, Parnell elected to have Tommy John surgery.

Cashman also revealed the tear is a new injury. It was not something that existed when Tanaka took, and passed his Yankees physical in January, making his contract official.

This raises an interesting point. Tanaka did not have this injury in Japan in 2013 when he had a 24-0 record. Now, in 18 starts in America, his UCL is slightly torn. There’s one big difference between Major League Baseball and Japanese baseball that may have contributed to this injury: in Japan, starting pitcher’s throw every seven days. In the MLB, starting pitcher’s throw every five days. This means, over the course of a year, more starts get accumulated, and there is less rest in between starts.

The Yankees have to take a wait-and-see approach with Tanaka’s injury. If it doesn’t respond well in treatment, he could end up having Tommy John surgery. That would certainly be rough news for the Yankees (46-44 as of July 10) as they try to stay in the picture in the AL East. The best possibility for the Yankees regarding Tanaka, at this point, seems to be a six week period without him, and perhaps he can return some time in late August.

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