After spending over a month on the disabled list with right wrist tendinitis and a forearm strain, Masahiro Tanaka will rejoin the active roster and the rotation later this afternoon in the series finale against the Mariners. It's been a while since we've seen him in action, so I thought it would be prudent to quickly recap his whole situation and how it relates to the rest of the team's current situation. As of right now, we do not know what the corresponding roster move will be to open up a 25-man spot for Tanaka, but there are plenty of simple options. The Yankees could send one of their multiple young bullpen lefties back to Triple-A, they could DFA one of their under-performing bullpen righties (Carpenter or Rogers), or they could decide to DFA Chris Capuano, who has been far from good since he came off the DL and rejoined the rotation recently.
Whatever the Yankees choose to do, they will be upgrading their pitching staff by giving it its best starter back. If you'll recall, Tanaka pitched like he was starting to figure things out in his last 2 April starts before hitting the DL. He threw 7 shutout innings with 8 Ks and no walks against Tampa Bay on April 18th and followed that up with 6.1 innings of 1-run, 3-hit ball against the Tigers on April 23rd. His stuff was starting to look livelier, his command was sharpening, and he was using his 4-seam fastball more after favoring his sinker in his first 2 starts.
Based on the results from his MiL rehab outings, it appears as though the stuff and command need to have a little more rust shaken off. That said, you can never put too much faith in MiL rehab numbers. Tanaka could very well have been using those outings to work on throwing everything and making sure his arm felt good and mechanics felt smooth. I don't have much concern about his on-field results tonight, nor do I have any concern about the health of his arm. Once again, he followed the recommendations of multiple doctors on how to treat this issue and he came through his time off and rehab work with no additional physical problems.
If there is one thing to be concerned about today, it may be Tanaka's pitch count. He only made 2 rehab starts and didn't throw more than 62 pitches in either. He's got a cap of 80 pitches today according to Joe, and that could only get him through 4-5 innings if he's not sharp or the Seattle hitters work counts against him. The Yankee middle relief group has been pretty bad lately and they've taken on a pretty hefty workload as well. A short outing from Tanaka today could spell trouble for a taxed 'pen later in the week.
That concern being what it is, this is still very good news for the Yankees. Their overall rotation depth and depth of talent has been compromised by injuries and Tanaka coming back helps to alleviate both of those problems. It's been said all along that the Yankees need a healthy Tanaka to be serious postseason contenders this season. Today we'll get another shot at seeing just how much of a help he can be.