NEW YORK — New York Yankees star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, whose 12 wins are the most in Major League Baseball, has a torn right elbow ligament and will miss at least six weeks, the club announced Thursday. Two days after Tanaka’s worst outing since leaving Japan in January to join the Yankees and a day after being put on the disabled list, Tanaka was given hope that he might avoid season-ending surgery. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that Tanaka had been seen by three doctors and diagnosed with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow after an MRI exam. None of the doctors recommended surgery for the 25-year-old right-hander, instead suggesting rehabilitation that could put him back on the mound for the Yankees by late August. “Hopefully no more than six weeks. Time will tell,” Cashman said. “It’s a disappointing situation and one that none of us wanted to be talking about or experiencing.” Cashman called the tendon tear a small one and said that a platelet-enriched plasma injection would be given to Tanaka next week in New York. If rehabilitation does not repair the damage, Tanaka likely would need “Tommy John” tendon replacement surgery, an operation from which the normal recovery time is 12 to 18 months. “Obviously, the protocols put in play are recommendations with the hope that it’s a solution,” Cashman said.
“If he’s a failed rehab, certainly it does not rule out that Tommy John would be the recommendation.” Tanaka signed a seven-year deal worth US$155 million with the Yankees after an unbeaten campaign last year for the Japan League champion Rakuten Eagles. In a 5-3 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday, Tanaka allowed season highs of five runs on 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings. The Yankees, who now have four of their five opening-day starting pitchers on Major League Baseball’s disabled list, saw Tanaka start the season 11-1 with a stellar 1.99 earned-run average. But since then, Tanaka has gone 1-3 with a 4.25 earned-run average. C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda are other New York pitchers who have been sidelined. That will make Cashman aggressive when it comes to looking at free agents and trade deals. “We have been aggressive because now we’ve got four starters that we were planning to have in the rotation out,” Cashman said. “We will continue to be aggressive. We are in the middle of a division fight and we want to stay in the fight.”