Three of MLB’s bigger stars will miss significant time due to injury.
The New York Yankees will be without their Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka for at least six weeks. He went on the DL yesterday with elbow trouble following a poor outing against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night. A MRI revealed a partial tear of his UCL. The Yankees are hoping Tommy John surgery won’t be required. Even if their optimistic projections are correct the loss of Tanaka is a big blow. He led the AL with 12 wins. As of this writing, the Yankees are 46-44 and 3 1/2 games back of the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. If not for Tanaka the Yankees would be nowhere.
Tanaka joins C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova on the DL. The Yankees now have a rotation consisting of Hiroki Kuroda, Chase Whitely, David Phelps, newly called Shane Greene and Brandon McCarthy who was acquired from the Diamondbacks earlier this week. The Yankees are going to need more than this to compete in the AL East during Tanaka’s absence. I’m sure the Yankees will try to acquire another veteran starting pitcher, but the pickings are slim.
My Dad and I have had an ongoing conversation about Tanaka. I predicted that the league would adjust to Tanaka (indeed, he had lost three of his last four decisions) and wouldn’t win three games after the All-Star Break. This might come to pass, but for reasons I didn’t anticipate.
St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina will miss 8-12 weeks with a torn ligament in his right thumb. He sustained the injury sliding into third base in yesterday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Molina will undergo surgery tomorrow. A six-time NL Gold Glove winner, Molina is the best defensive catcher in MLB. He is probably the most indispensable member of Cardinals. The Cardinals are two games back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central and will need more than Tony Cruz to compete. Obviously, A.J. Pierzynski is now available. But would Pierzynski mesh with Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals pitching staff?
Interestingly, Molina’s arch rival also injured his thumb. Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips tore ligaments in his left thumb diving for a ball during Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Cubs. Like Molina, Phillips will undergo surgery and is expected to miss 8-12 weeks. The Reds have won five in a row and are only 2 1/2 games back of the Brewers. However, over the past couple of days the Reds have lost former NL MVP Joey Votto and rookie outfielder Billy Hamilton to the DL. But the absence of Phillips would hurt the Reds the most. Phillips has been a mainstay with the Reds since 2006 and is good for 150 games a season. The Reds will miss both his bat and the defense of a four time Gold Glove winner. Let’s put it this way. Ramon Santiago is not a long term solution. I would suggest the Reds take a look at D’Backs second baseman Aaron Hill.
There may be no love lost between Molina and Phillips, but their injuries have given the Brewers a much better shot at holding off the Cardinals and Reds and staying atop the NL Central.
The difference between contenders and pretenders is how teams adapt to the loss of key players. It will be interesting to see how the Yankees, Cardinals and Reds will respond over the next couple of months to the loss of of Masahiro Tanaka, Yadier Molina and Brandon Phillips, respectively.