NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka has made it through all the bullpen sessions and the simulated games.
He now faces what Yankees manager Joe Girardi calls a "real" test when he steps to the mound against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Yankees' $175 million man will pitch in an MLB game Sunday for the first time since July 8, when he reported elbow soreness after a start against the Cleveland Indians.
"We're going to find out a lot probably tomorrow," Girardi said Saturday. "It might give us a decent idea of what we're going to have next year."
If Tanaka makes it through Sunday's start unscathed, he may make one more start before the end of the regular season. If he can emerge from both starts without incident, there is a chance he can avoid Tommy John surgery and be ready to pitch in 2015.
"The big thing is that he comes out of this healthy for us," Girardi said.
The Yankees would like to gain as clear a picture as possible of how Tanaka's elbow has healed during Sunday's start. They'd also like to make as certain as possible that Tanaka will not need Tommy John surgery -- something that would likely keep him off the mound for all of 2015.
In July, four medical experts advised Tanaka and the team it was possible for Tanaka to pitch again without the surgery.
Tanaka on Saturday said he'll be able to throw all of his pitches Sunday and insisted he'd "definitely" still be pitching if the Yankees were in the thick of a playoff race.
"I've said that these are going to be the real tests when the intensity is turned up and the atmosphere is what he's used to being in," the manager said.
Tanaka said he has been working on a regular starter's schedule for about two weeks. Just like most Yankees fans, he is eager to see how he holds up when he's back on a big league mound.
"I'm excited but not overly. I think once I get up on the mound I have to make sure and see if I'm OK up there pitching in the big league atmosphere," Tanaka said.
Tanaka is 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA on the season. In his final four starts prior to reporting the elbow soreness, Tanaka had three losses and a 4.35 ERA.
Prior to those four games, Tanaka was 11-1 with a 1.99 ERA in his initial 14 starts. He is in the first year of a seven-year, $175 million contract (including a $20 million posting fee).
The first baseman left Saturday's game after two at bats due to a tendinitis issue in his right wrist.
He said after the game that he may need a third cortisone shot to play through the pain but refused to give up on the season.
"As long as we're in it, I'm playing," Teixeira said.
Teixeira was limited to just 15 games last season due to surgery on his injured right wrist.
He is going to consult with his surgeon on Sunday to determine the next course of action.
One option is to have a third cortisone shot.
"You don't want to have too many of them but we're kind of at a 'what's the risk-reward?' right now," Teixeira said.
The Yankees are 4 1/2 games out of the second wild card spot with eight games to play, so the reward wouldn't appear to be worth it at this point. Teixiera vowed to be in the lineup if he's physically able to play.
But Girardi wasn't as certain.
"There’s not much left if we don’t win out and other teams lose. I think he’ll take it day by day," the manager said.
Teixeira has appeared in 119 games, hitting .216 with 21 homers and 58 RBIs.
The first baseman has three years remaining on his contract for $67.5 million dollars.
Beltran sat out of Saturday's loss to the Toronto Blue Jays due to elbow soreness and said afterward that he may sit out of the New York Yankees' final eight games.
The veteran outfielder has been dealing with pain associated with a bone spur in his right elbow on and off all season.
Beltran on Saturday said he would speak to a doctor to determine the next course of action. Surgery seems like the most likely outcome.
"Before the game it bothered me [yesterday] and I tried to play and it continued to bother me. Forearm’s tight. It’s the same thing," Beltran said. "It's been like that the whole season."
Beltran has had three cortisone shots to try to deal with the pain, but that is the limit that doctors recommend.
"He’s dealing with that same problem over and over. It’s something he's battled through all season," manager Joe Girardi said.
Beltran, 37, is in the first year of a three-season, $45 million contract. He is hitting .233 with 15 homers and 49 RBIs in 109 games.
If Beltran has the surgery now or early in the offseason, he is expected to be fine for spring training, 2015.
NEW YORK -- Jose Bautista hit his eighth homer of the year against New York, Marcus Stroman pitched six gritty innings and the Toronto Blue Jays ended a season-worst six-game skid to beat the Yankees 6-3 Saturday and keep their faint playoff hopes alive.
With eight games to play for both teams, Toronto is 5 1-2 games back for an AL wild card and the Yankees are 4 1-2. Seattle and Cleveland all played later Saturday night.
With most of the 47,292 fans at Yankee Stadium standing and chanting "Der-ek Je-ter!" his every at-bat, the retiring captain doubled and singled for his third straight multihit game. He also scored his 1,920th run to pass suspended teammate Alex Rodriguez for ninth place on the career list.
The Bombers lost to the Toronto Blue Jays 6-3 on Saturday to end a three-game winning streak and put their postseason hopes on life support.
The Yankees are 4.5 out of the second wild card in the American League -- a deficit that is all but insurmountable with eight games to play.
They haven't missed the postseason in back-to-back years since going from 1982-1993 without an appearance.
They trail Cleveland, Seattle and Kansas City in the standings. (The Indians play later Saturday. With a loss, they would fall into a tie with the Yanks.)
A good day for Jeter: Derek Jeter finished the day 2-for-5 and drilled a double into left to drive in a run in the ninth.
On the homestand, Jeter is 6-for-13 with a home run.
In the third, Jeter got what, at the time, was a key two-out hit and scored a historic run.
He reached on an infield single that glanced off of the glove of Blue Jays second baseman Steve Tolleson with two outs in the bottom of the third. Jeter then reached second on a wild pitch and scored on Yankees catcher Brian McCann's single to left field.
The run tied the game at 1-1 for the Yankees and moved Jeter to ninth on baseball's all-time runs scored list, one ahead of Alex Rodriguez.
Even if the Yankees don't advance up the standings in the coming days, it will be interesting to see how many games Jeter plays after they are mathematically eliminated (assuming they are).
Last season, Jeter was sidelined during the time they were eliminated from the playoffs. In 2008, the Yankees were eliminated on Sept. 23 after which Jeter started one game -- Sept. 26.
To date, Jeter has started only one game in his career when the Yankees have not been in playoff contention, according to Elias.
A bad day for Tex: Mark Teixeira was booed following a third-inning strikeout. He was then removed from the game due to soreness in his right wrist. The team said Teixeira would be evaluated by team doctor Chris Ahmad. We will have more on Teixeira's injury as it becomes available. He had surgery on the wrist last season and was limited to just 15 games due to the injury.
A bad day for Capuano: Yankees starter Chris Capuano gave up four runs on five hits over 5 ⅔ innings. He walked four and struck out two. Capuano's biggest hurdle came in the sixth inning when the Jays loaded the bases following a misplay by Stephen Drew at second base.
Capuano gave up a two-run double to Danny Valencia that put Toronto up 4-2. Prior to Saturday's loss, the Yankees had won four of Capuano's past five starts.
Tomorrow: The Yankees face the Blue Jays. First pitch is at 1 p.m. Tanaka vs. Drew Hutchison.
Jeter scored the 1,920th run of his career on Saturday, surpassing Alex Rodriguez for ninth place all time.
Jeter reached on an infield single that glanced off of the glove of Blue Jays second baseman Steve Tolleson with two outs in the bottom of the third. Jeter then reached second on a wild pitch and scored on Yankees catcher Brian McCann's single to left field.
Jeter plans to retire at the conclusion of the 2014 season.
He had struggled at the plate in August and for much of September, enduring an 0-for-28 slump earlier this month. But he entered play Saturday with four hits in his last eight at-bats, including a home run.
Jeter holds several prominent positions on baseball's all-time lists. He is sixth with 3,456 hits and is eighth in games played by players who have been with one team for their entire careers.
Jeter has also played 2,671 games at shortstop, the most appearances at any single fielding position in baseball history without having played another position, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
It is unclear if or when he will return to the field, but Ellsbury said on Saturday that he plans to be back this season.
"I'm going to do everything I can to be back as soon as possible but today I'm just basically going to do as much treatment as possible to see how it responds," he said.
Ellsbury left Friday night's 5-3 win against the Toronto Blue Jays in the fifth inning with a hamstring strain suffered while he was running out a grounder in the bottom of the fourth. He said on Saturday afternoon that the injury felt "better," a development that gave him confidence about a possible return this season.
After Saturday's loss, the Yankees have eight games left in the regular season. They are 4½ games out of the second wild card -- a long shot to make the postseason -- after the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners lost Saturday.
So Ellsbury was asked why he would put his health at risk to return even though the Yankees are unlikely to make the playoffs.
"Obviously I'll talk to the team and we'll be on the same page with this," said Ellsbury, who signed a seven-year, $153 million contract in the offseason. "We'll still try to do everything we can to play these last [eight] games."
Brett Gardner, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Brian McCann, DH
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Chris Young, LF
Chase Headley, 3B
Stephen Drew, 2B
Ichiro Suzuki, RF
Francisco Cervelli, C
Chris Capuano, P
Jose Reyes, SS
Jose Bautista, RF
Edwin Encarnacion, DH
Dioner Navarro, C
Danny Valencia, 3B
John Mayberry Jr., 1B
Dalton Pompey, CF
Steve Tolleson, 2B
Kevin Pillar, LF
Marcus Stroman, P
That tells you all you need to know about how much of a role injuries played in the imminent collapse of the Yankees' 2014 season. If you thought their 2013 clubhouse was a baseball MASH unit, well, this one was every bit as bad, and might still turn out to be worse.
Still, until the fourth inning of Friday night's 5-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, when Jacoby Ellsbury felt something grab in his right hamstring, there was still a chance, however slim, that the Yankees might yet overcome the injury bug and survive to play at least one playoff game this October.
The Yankees survived the loss of four of their five starting pitchers, including their erstwhile ace, CC Sabathia, and the sensational Masahiro Tanaka. They weathered the continual lineup absences of Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran. They shrugged off the loss, last week, of Martin Prado, a replacement for a replacement, who had played well until falling victim to a season-ending appendectomy.
Despite all that, they have remained alive, albeit barely, in the hunt for the second AL wild card, and with their third straight win Friday night, their E# -- that is, elimination number -- is holding steady at six, with nine games to play.
It is not a great chance, but it is still a chance.
But not without Ellsbury. The $153 million center fielder may not have had an MVP-caliber season relative to the rest of baseball. He batted .271 with 16 home runs, 71 RBIs and a .747 OPS -- but relative to the rest of the Yankees' lineup, he was Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. He was the team leader in RBIs, had the highest batting average in their everyday lineup, and, with 39 stolen bases, was the Yankees' leading base stealer by nearly double over his closest rival (Brett Gardner, 20).
And he was having a hell of a night Friday before he pushed it a little too hard trying to beat out a double-play ball in the fourth.
He had homered -- a two-run shot deep into the right-field seats -- in the third to wipe out a 2-1 Jays lead, and the grounder that ended his night, and probably his season, scored two more runs to provide the rest of the scoring in a 5-3 win.
But what does it matter to a team to gain a victory but lose an offensive spark plug?
To this team, it means pretty much everything, since aside from Ellsbury, Gardner and newcomer Chris Young, the rest of the offense has misfired all season.
That is why there was little joy on manager Joe Girardi's face or mirth in his voice when he met the media after the game, because he knew better than anyone that on this night, the Yankees had lost much more than they had gained.
He didn't quite have all the bad news -- Ellsbury had been taken for an MRI and there was neither a diagnosis of the severity of his injury nor a prognosis for his return -- but when asked if he was concerned that he might have lost Ellsbury for the remainder of the season, Girardi said, "Well, I think that’s a distinct possibility. Any time a guy comes out and grabs his hamstring, you’re always concerned. It's not what you want. We just lost Prado, and Jake had swung the bat extremely well tonight. He’s a huge part of our offense. It's not what you want, but we have to deal with it. That’s all we can do."
The problem is, the Yankees are running as short of bodies as they are of games.
Presuming Ellsbury is gone -- and that is a safe presumption -- it means more playing time for Young in left, with Gardner in center and Ichiro Suzuki, whose 40-year-old body does not allow him to play effectively every day anymore, in right. Beltran, both slumping and in pain from a bone chip in his elbow, is the backup outfielder. Anything else gets cobbled out of Zelous Wheeler and Chase Headley, both infielders by trade, and of course, Pirela, who was issued No. 67 but really should have been given 57. (That one currently belongs to Rich Hill, a rarely used lefty reliever who became a necessity when the Yankees decided to cut bait on Matt Thornton).
It has been scotch tape and mirrors all season for this club, and somehow those makeshift remedies were holding it all together, but now it looks like it will finally come apart, for the last time.
That is why Girardi could not really revel in the pitching of Hiroki Kuroda, who gave the Yankees his usual 6⅔ steady if unspectacular innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits, or his bullpen, which -- Shawn Kelley's Thursday night flameout nothwithstanding -- seems to be getting healthy again, with Esmil Rogers and Adam Warren combing for 2⅓ innings of scoreless, one-hit ball.
Nor could he really celebrate the play of Derek Jeter, who in the first two games of his final homestand is 4-for-8 with a home run, plus a terrific heads-up play to trap Jose Reyes off second base in the first inning.
Lots of good things happened for the Yankees on this night, but the manager couldn't seem to set aside the one bad thing that happened to them, because he knew that is the one that is likely to finally derail what is left of his season.
"You could hit Ells anywhere and he’s going to be productive," Girardi said. "That’s the type of player he is. He’s got great speed. He’s really a smart baserunner. He knows how to steal bases, knows how to get himself into scoring position. He’s a great player. Offensively, defensively, there’s nothing this kid can’t do and he’s meant a whole lot to our club.”
Despite his history of injuries, Ellsbury played 149 games this season, and any Yankee fan would have signed on for that when the season began, especially after he missed 10 days of spring training with a calf injury. But now, 149 games will not turn out to have been enough, and the Yankees can only hope he will be all the things he was for them this year, next year.
Right now, he's just one more entry on a long list of players who broke down before his team reached the finish line.
Which probably means that a young man named Jose Pirela, who has never set foot on a big-league ball field, may be about to. And when he does, he will make Yankee history.
But, as Girardi has had to say way too many times this season, not the kind that you want.
NEW YORK -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees kept Mark Buehrle winless against them for more than a decade, sending the Toronto Blue Jays to their season-worst sixth straight loss, 5-3 Friday night.
New York won its third in a row to preserve its faint AL wild-card hopes.
The cheers for Jeter kept getting louder and louder during his final homestand, and fans chanted his name throughout the ninth inning.
Jeter delivered two singles, giving him back-to-back multihit games for the first time since late July. The retiring captain later hit a long fly that really got the crowd hollering before it was caught on the warning track.
The 40-year-old shortstop also alertly tricked speedy Jose Reyes off second by bluffing a throw to first, trapping him in a rundown.
Ellsbury homered, doubled and drove in three runs.
Now, make that an even dozen. The Yankees got three RBIs out of Jacoby Ellsbury -- who they then lost to a hamstring strain apparently suffered in the fourth inning -- another strong starting performance out of Hiroki Kuroda, and some clutch pitching out of the bullpen to win their third straight and breathe another day of life into their rather remote chance of playing in October.
Steadying influence: Before the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi called Kuroda "the one constant" in his rotation for the past three seasons, and "a true professional"; Kuroda was both of those once again tonight, weathering a two-run, 23-pitch first inning to last into the seventh, allowing seven hits and three runs (two earned), striking out seven and walking none. At 40, Kuroda has been the only consistently reliable starter the Yankees have had for the entire season. He has now started five times against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, and won all five.
Ells-buried: A long two-run homer into the right-field bleachers by Ellsbury gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the third. Ellsbury hit a 1-1 Buehrle fastball that loitered in at 84 mph with Ichiro Suzuki on base for his 16th home run of the season and team-leading 69th RBI.
Ouch-bury: Ellsbury added his 70th RBI on a fourth-inning fielder's choice grounder that scored two runs when Jose Reyes threw the relay past first baseman Adam Lind, but apparently injured himself on the play, because he did not return to center field for the top of the fifth. Chris Young went in to play left and Brett Gardner moved to center. Late in the game, the Yankees announced Ellsbury had suffered a right hamstring strain and would undergo an MRI.
Wasn't a shutout: Edwin Encarnacion got the Jays on the board in the first with a two-run homer that rang the pipe that serves as the left-field foul pole on a 2-0 slider from Kuroda. It was Encarnacion's 33rd home run of the season and the fourth he has hit off Kuroda in 24 career at-bats.
Capt. Cool: With help from an absentminded Reyes, Derek Jeter made a heads-up play that erased a Toronto runner from second base in the first inning. Reyes had led off the game by lining Kuroda's second pitch into the right-field corner for a double, and when Jose Bautista smoked a one-hopper that Jeter snagged at short, it appeared Reyes would hold up. But he began to break for third before Jeter released the throw to first, and the Captain alertly held the ball and fired to Chase Headley, who tagged Reyes out between second and third after a brief rundown. What looked like a big break for the Yankees, however, went for naught when Encarnacion followed with his two-run homer.
First dud: The first three Yankees to face Buehrle got hits -- a leadoff double by Ellsbury, a line single by Jeter and an RBI single by Brian McCann -- but the rally stalled there when Mark Teixeira tapped back to the mound for a 1-4-3 double play and Carlos Beltran struck out looking.
Jolly Rogers: Esmil Rogers got arguably the biggest out of the game when, after walking Bautista to load the bases following a single by Anthony Gose and a ground-rule double by Reyes, he got the dangerous Encarnacion to bounce into a forceout to end the seventh inning and preserve the 5-3 lead. Adam Warren also pitched in with two big strikeouts to end the eighth, and threw a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the save.
The first days of Pompey: Rays left fielder Dalton Pompey, a September call-up, collected his first big-league hit, a line drive to right-center just over a leaping Stephen Drew's glove, with one out in the second.
Tomorrow: Game 3 of this four-game series matches Chris Capuano (2-3, 4.55) and RHP Marcus Stroman (10-6, 3.80), first pitch at 4:05 p.m.
NEW YORK -- Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury left Friday night's 5-3 win against the Toronto Blue Jays in the fifth inning with a right hamstring strain apparently suffered while he was running out a grounder in the bottom of the fourth.
Ellsbury was at Columbia Presbyterian Hospitsal in Manhattan getting an MRI during the postgame clubhouse session and was not available to reporters. The Yankees said the results of the MRI will not be known until Saturday.
But manager Joe Girardi did not seem optimistic about Ellsbury's chances of playing very much, or even at all, as the Yankees try to salvage a wild-card berth in the final 10 games of their season. Asked if thought Ellsbury was lost to him for the season, Girardi said, "Well, I think that's a distinct possibility. Any time a guy comes out and grabs his hamstring, you're always concerned. He's a huge part of our offense.
"It's not what you want, but we have to deal with it. That's all we can do.''
Ellsbury had hit a two-run home run, his 16th of the season, to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the third inning and drove in the Yankees' fourth run on the play on which he was injured, a grounder to shortstop that became a force out at second. But Ellsbury was safe at first when Jose Reyes' throw sailed wide of first, allowing a fifth, unearned run to score.
Ellsbury, who is batting .271, leads the Yankees with 70 RBIs.
In fact, not only will Tanaka make one more start this season; Girardi said if all goes well on Sunday, Tanaka will make another start, probably next Saturday against the Red Sox at Fenway in the second-to-last game of the season.
And that, Girardi said, should be enough to tell the Yankees what they need to know about Tanaka going forward.
Asked for the countless time why the Yankees are risking throwing Tanaka this year rather than allow his partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament the entire winter to recover, Girardi said, "Because we feel that if his arm is going to be OK, its going to be OK. And if it’s not then we want to have it done so you don’t miss parts of two seasons, in a sense."
"It," of course, is Tommy John surgery, and it is the Yankees position that if Tanaka is not OK after Sunday, or a second start, they would proceed with the surgery in October, costing Tanaka all of 2015 but probably giving him enough time to come to 2016 spring training fully recovered.
But if the Yankees were to wait until next February or March to see him pitch in a game, it could cost him part of 2016 as well. "We think it’s a risk worth taking," he said.
Tanaka is expected to throw between 70-75 pitches on Sunday.
Beltran back: Girardi said he believed Carlos Beltran, whose wife Jessica suffered a miscarriage earlier this week, would benefit emotionally from returning to action tonight, so he penciled him into the lineup in the No. 5 slot as the Yankees DH.
"I woulda used him yesterday if I felt there was a spot pinch-hitting," Girardi said. "And sometimes, for athletes, for anyone, it’s good to get back out there, to doing what you’re used to doing, and living that normal life. Obviously he’s going out there with a heavy heart and we’ve got a heavy heart with him, but hopefully it helps getting him back out there."
No place like home: Tonight's starter, Hiroki Kuroda, has a 6-3 career record and 4.09 ERA vs. Toronto in 10 career starts, but he has never lost to the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, going 4-0 with a 2.36 ERA in his four starts at home. Kuroda has beaten the Blue Jays twice already this yea, going 6-1/3 innings and allowing three runs in a 5-3 Yankees win at the Rogers Centre on June 25, and allowing four runs in 5-2/3 innings of a 6-4 Yankees win here on July 25. But the No.'s 2 and 3 hitters in the Toronto lineup, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, have four and three home runs off him respectively.
Ten and counting: It's been well-document but worth mentioning again that Toronto starter Mark Buehrle has not beaten the Yankees since April 10, 2004. In the interim, he has lost 11 consecutive decisions to the Yankees and is 1-13 with a 6.14 ERA against them in 20 career starts. On the bright side, his only victory against the Yankees came here at Yankee Stadium -- well, actually across the street at Yankee Stadium 2.0 -- 125 months ago when Buehrle was a member of the Chicago White Sox. Naturally, the only player on the current Yankee roster in that game was Derek Jeter, who went 1-4 in that 7-3 Chisox win.