This could be the Yankees’ worst nightmare.
With the Blue Jays in a nosedive, the Orioles lacking reliable starting pitching, the Red Sox experimenting with a second-half youth movement, and the Rays already buried in the standings after a brutal first three months, the American League East is -- for once -- a wide open division. But the Bronx Bombers (currently three games out of first place with a record of 46-44) could have to finish the season without their ace.
Masahiro Tanaka was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with inflammation in his right elbow and flown back to New York (from where the Yankees were playing in Cleveland) to undergo an MRI. The results of that exam should be made available within the next 24 hours. Yankees manager Joe Girardi told MLB.com's Bryan Hoch that Tanaka wants to travel to Seattle on Thursday to visit team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad, who is away at a medical conference. The situation does not sound promising, and it seems very possible that the long list of high-profile pitchers requiring Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery might soon grow.
Tanaka -- who signed an international-record seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees this winter -- owns a fantastic 2.51 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 135/19 K/BB ratio through his first 129 1/3 major league innings. New York’s starting rotation at the moment goes Brandon McCarthy, David Phelps, Hiroki Kuroda, Shane Greene, and then presumably Chase Whitley.
None of this is really fantasy-relevant for non-Tanaka owners. It's just sad.
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Macho Macho Manny
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado returned from his October 2013 knee surgery with a whimper, batting .220/.271/.284 with just three extra-base hits and 18 strikeouts across 27 games in May. But he came to life a bit in June and has been an absolute monster in July since serving a five-game suspension, going 12-for-21 (.571) with two doubles, two homers, three RBI, and three runs scored in four games.
“You can tell he looks a little more confident and in sync,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter told the Baltimore Sun on Wednesday night after Machado went 3-for-4 with a solo home run in a loss to the Nationals. “You can just see the body language of it. ... It's not always results.”
Machado tallied 14 home runs, 71 RBI, 88 runs scored, and an American League-high 51 doubles in 156 games last season as a 20-year-old (and 21-year-old) rookie. He looks poised for a massive second half of 2014 at age 22.
Wong Is Right In St. Louis
Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong continued to flash budding confidence in the Cardinals’ victory over the Pirates on Wednesday night in St. Louis, drawing two walks, stealing a base, and slugging a seventh-inning solo home run. He hit a walkoff homer on Tuesday night and is now 5-for-12 (.417) with four extra-base hits, five RBI, and four runs scored in four games since returning from a 15-day disabled list stint for a shoulder bruise.
Wong’s overall season batting line is still just .241/.299/.371 and his career batting line at the major league level is even worse, but it might be a good idea to buy low on the 23-year-old former first-round pick out of Hawaii. This is a player with a .312/.373/.476 batting line in 543 plate appearances at Triple-A Memphis, and he was also 26-for-27 in stolen-base attempts during his time there. Wong can move quickly up the Cardinals’ batting order if he continues to rake.
National League Quick Hits: Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina suffered a sprained right thumb on Wednesday night and was sent for an MRI … Reds speedster Billy Hamilton is day-to-day with tightness in his left hamstring … Francisco Liriano (oblique) will return to the Pirates’ rotation Sunday against the Reds … Troy Tulowitzki homered twice in the Rockies' defeat of the Padres on Wednesday afternoon … Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt smacked a walkoff two-run double in Wednesday's victory over the Marlins … Roberto Hernandez needed only 84 pitches to hold the Brewers to one run over eight innings Wednesday in a Phillies win … Starling Marte has been placed on the bereavement list due to a death in his family … Brandon Phillips left Wednesday's game against the Cubs with a sprained left thumb … Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said Tuesday that there's an "outside chance" Mark Trumbo (foot) will return from the disabled list on Friday … Jayson Werth walked, hit an RBI double, and ripped a solo home run Wednesday as the Nationals beat the Orioles … Aroldis Chapman earned his 19th save of the season with a perfect, three-strikeout ninth inning Wednesday versus the Cubs … Carlos Gonzalez (finger) is on track to be activated Friday … In his first start since May 10, Dillon Gee held the Braves to one run over seven innings on Wednesday … Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Tuesday that the Brewers have had "a lot of discussions" about promoting top pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson … Jonathan Papelbon earned his third save in as many days Wednesday as the Phillies beat the Brewers … Jedd Gyorko (plantar fasciitis) remains several weeks away from a return … Gerrit Cole is back on the disabled list with soreness in his right lat muscle … Trevor Rosenthal pitched a scoreless ninth against the Pirates for his 27th save on Wednesday … Marco Scutaro (back) could be activated from the disabled list Friday … Carlos Ruiz (concussion) has been cleared to resume baseball activities … Reds starter Alfredo Simon picked up his league-leading 12th win Wednesday against the Cubs.
American League Quick Hits: Royals outfielder Alex Gordon might be headed to the 15-day disabled list with a right wrist sprain … Mookie Betts doubled twice and scored twice as the Red Sox came from behind to beat the White Sox on Wednesday … David Robertson earned his 22nd save of the season Wednesday as the Yankees beat the Indians in 14 innings … Royals catcher Salvador Perez hit a ninth-inning three-run homer Wednesday in a comeback defeat of the Rays ... Victor Martinez (side) is expected to remain sidelined until after the All-Star break ... Albert Pujols went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in Wednesday's win over the Blue Jays … White Sox ace Chris Sale tossed 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball Wednesday in a no-decision against the Red Sox … Adam Lind is expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks with a fracture in his right foot … Astros catcher Jason Castro was out for a third straight game Wednesday due to pain in his left armpit … Max Scherzer struck out seven over seven innings of one-run ball Wednesday in a win over the Dodgers … Wil Myers could get the cast removed from his fractured right wrist on Friday … Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar (shoulder) is on track to the activated from the disabled list Friday … A.J. Pierzynski was designated for assignment Wednesday by the Red Sox, who called up young catcher Christian Vazquez in a corresponding roster move … Austin Jackson doubled, tripled and scored a pair of runs in Wednesday's win over the Dodgers … Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner is day-to-day with a lower abdominal strain … Taijuan Walker has been optioned back to Triple-A Tacoma but should return shortly after the All-Star break … Royals starter Jason Vargas could miss 3-4 weeks after undergoing an appendectomy … Carlos Beltran was scratched from the Yankees’ lineup Wednesday after fouling a batting practice ball off his face … Bud Norris struggled Wednesday in his first start since June 21, allowing five runs in four innings in a loss to the Nationals … The White Sox agreed to terms with first-round pick Carlos Rodon.