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Masahiro Tanaka undergoing MRI, placed on DL with elbow injury

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New York Yankees star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has left the team and is returning to New York to have an MRI performed on his pitching elbow, the New York Post’s George King III reported on Wednesday.

Hours after King’s report, manager Joe Girardi announced that his staff ace had been placed on the 15-day disabled list with what is being called “elbow soreness.”

The news comes one day after the rookie pitcher turned in his worst start as a major leaguer on Tuesday, allowing 10 hits and five runs over 6 2/3 innings in a 5-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

After Tuesday’s start, Tanaka commented that he “didn’t feel that bad,” instead indicating his belief that his command was off, causing the poor outing. Catcher Brian McCann believed that the ball was coming out of Tanaka’s hand fine on Tuesday, but a lot of his pitches were up in the zone.

One of the biggest concerns regarding Tanaka, who was signed out of Japan during the offseason to a seven-year, $155 million contract, was how he would adjust to pitching every fifth day. In Japan’s Pacific League, where Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season, pitchers take the mound every seventh day.

The 25-year-old Tanaka has emerged as the go-to guy in a depleted Yankees rotation that has lost Ivan Nova for the season and CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda indefinitely. He will head into the All-Star break with a 12-4 record and a 2.51 ERA, but is just 1-3 with a 4.25 ERA in his past four starts.

“It goes without saying how important he’s been to us,” Derek Jeter told reporters on Wednesday. “He’s been as good as anyone that we see in our league or the National League. He’s been our go-to guy.”

Outfielder Zoilo Almonte has been promoted to fill Tanaka’s spot on the roster. No replacement for Tanaka’s scheduled start on Sunday has been announced.

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