After taking a trip to Seattle to visit team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad and two other specialists, New York Yankees star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has been diagnosed with a partially torn UCL in his pitching elbow, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters on Thursday.
Cashman indicated that all three doctors have agreed that the tear is relatively tiny, and none of the three believe surgery to be necessary to repair the injury, at least not yet. Instead, Tanaka will receive a platelet rich plasma injection and begin a rehab program that could put him back on a mound in six weeks.
“All three are in agreement with a diagnosis of a new injury; a partially torn ligament in his throwing arm,” Cashman told reporters. “The recommendation on the treatment is a rehab protocol that would begin with one PRP injection and a throwing program after an exercise routine. The ligament tear in question is considered small and we, the Yankees, have had success with pitchers that have had this.”
However, if the rehab protocol fails, Tanaka will be forced to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the injury. If forced to have Tommy John surgery, Tanaka would effectively be knocked out of action for 12-18 months, which would keep him off a mound in New York until 2016.
Cashman indicated that this was a new injury, and not one that showed up when Tanaka took his physical prior to signing a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees during the winter after spending seven seasons in Japan with the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
In his first season pitching in the United States, Tanaka held a 12-4 record with a 2.51 ERA. He had also tossed three complete games in his first 18 starts and had been named to the American League All-Star team.
With Ivan Nova (Tommy John) already out for the year and C.C. Sabathia and Michael Pineda on the disabled list indefinitely, it appears unlikely that the band-aided rotation will keep the Yankees in contention, making it plausible that the 25-year-old’s rookie season could be finished.