Yankees’ Tanaka Has Small Ligament Tear, Will Try to Rehab Elbow

New York Yankees rookie Masahiro Tanaka has a “small” ligament tear in his pitching elbow and will be sidelined at least six weeks, General Manager Brian Cashman said.

Three doctors recommended that Tanaka, who is 12-4 for the Yankees this season after coming to Major League Baseball from Japan, try to rehabilitate the elbow, Cashman told reporters last night on a conference call.

If the rehab is not successful, Tanaka probably would need Tommy John surgery and would miss 12 to 18 months.

“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.”

Tanaka, 25, was placed on the 15-day disabled list two days ago with inflammation in his right elbow, a day after allowing five runs and 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings at Cleveland for the worst start in his MLB debut season.

Tanaka signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees in January that’s the fifth richest for a pitcher in major league history. New York also paid $20 million to Japan’s Rakuten Golden Eagles for the right to sign Tanaka.

The Yankees, who lost 9-3 last night in Cleveland, are in third place in the American League East division with a 46-45 record. Tanaka is the fourth member of the Yankees’ opening day starting pitching rotation on the disabled list, along with CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda.

“We’ve had a lot of important pieces that we’ve seen miss action, and he’s an important piece as well,” Cashman said. “We have to continue to figure a way to plug the hole, and also be hopeful and optimistic for Masahiro.”

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