Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka has been diagnosed with a slight flexor mass strain in his right forearm and won’t throw for the next five days, manager Joe Girardi told reporters, including Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). Tanaka’s injury obviously means that he’ll miss at least one start, though pitching coach Larry Rothschild emphasized that there’s nothing wrong with the right-hander’s ulnar collateral ligament (via ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand). Tanaka suffered a minor tear of the UCL during his rookie season but never underwent Tommy John surgery and has seemingly recovered (or at the very least has pitched through it without issue).
The loss of Tanaka, even for one start, is a difficult pill for the Yankees to swallow as their dwindling Wild Card hopes now look a bit more bleak. New York currently sits two and a half games back in the AL Wild Card race, but they’re trailing both Wild Card holders (Baltimore and Toronto) as well as the Tigers, Astros and Mariners in that race. Tanaka himself feels that the injury won’t be season-ending, telling reporters that he believes he’ll be able to “come back strong” before year’s end (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch).
If, however, Tanaka isn’t able to return to the hill, it’ll only add another layer of uncertainty to the Yankees’ rotation picture heading into an offseason where starting pitching will almost certainly be a focus for general manager Brian Cashman and his staff. The Yankees can currently only pencil in Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia to next year’s rotation, and while that trio somewhat incredibly has combined to make 89 starts so far this season, there are notable injury concerns with each of the group, making it difficult to assume they’ll be able to replicate that feat in 2017. Beyond those veterans, the Yankees have inexperienced (and, in some cases, inconsistent) arms like Luis Severino, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell and Luis Cessa as rotation options, but that group of seven doesn’t figure to be enough depth to survive a season, let alone to contend for an AL East title.