It is Tuesday and we are now about 48 hours away from Opening Day. Can you believe that? As delayed and beleaguered as the last few months have been, Opening Day really came fast once the Yanks got back to camp. As expected, there was a ton of Yankees news today. I’ll get to that in a second, though.
First, let’s all take a minute to wish happy birthday to our collective favorite, CC Sabathia. The big man turns 40 today. As a tribute, let’s all walk down memory lane and enjoy his first postseason start as a Yankee:
Can you believe that was 11 years ago? I personally cannot. Remember it like it was yesterday. Anyway, like I said, a ton happened today. Let’s get to it.
The Big Story: Masahiro Tanaka is Getting Healthy
Folks, Masahiro Tanaka is healthy again. This is today’s big story because it clearly impacted some of the day’s other, perhaps more obvious, big stories regarding the pitching staff. Tanaka threw off the mound at the Stadium today, which was the next step in his rehab. He threw 20 pitches – without an L screen. Here is some video from today:
And here is some more:
The next step for him is to throw 35-40 pitches again on Sunday. That’s July 26, for the record, the day of the third game of the season for the Yankees. They will use a to-be-announced opener in that game. It’s not a mystery as to why those two things are happening simultaneously: it sets Tanaka up to make his return to the Yankees rotation against Boston on July 31 five days later in the Bronx. It works out perfectly.
That sets up the Yankee rotation pretty neatly, as well. Gerrit Cole starts Opening Day followed by James Paxton. Then they use the opener, followed by J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery. Slot Tanaka in to the opener’s slot and you get the rotation we all would have expected on July 3 before Tanaka’s concussion. His rapid recovery likely influenced the Yanks rostering Mike King, optioning Clarke Schmidt, and using an opener in the third game of the season. Imagine that! Things are connected.
Ultimately, this was the best-case scenario for Tanaka and the Yankees. Tanaka’s return is happening way faster than I thought it would – that injury was scary as hell – and I’m glad for it. Head injuries are no joke so I’m really glad for Tanaka’s sake that he avoided a potentially very serious one. As for the Yankees, they’re obviously much with Tanaka in the rotation. The Yanks are about as healthy as they’ve been since the first day of 2019’s Spring Training. Go figure.
- Clarke Schmidt, the Man of Camp: Even though the Yankees optioned him to satellite camp, Clarke Schmidt won this year’s James P. Dawson Award for outstanding rookie in Yankee camp. (Stephen Tarpley won it last year.) It’s too bad for Schmidt that he didn’t make the roster, but we will see him again soon. “He has delivered in every way”, Aaron Boone told Randy Miller. As for Schmidt, he did pitch today – including to DJ LeMahieu – before being optioned. Check out some video of that here:
- King of the Hill: Mike King, on the other hand, will remain with the Yanks in the Bronx. King is an option to open the third game of the year, and “he has a chance to really impact” the Yankees this year, according to Aaron Boone. I’ve liked King since he joined the organization, and I’m glad he made his way back from that injury last year. He’s looked very good so far and even added some velocity. Good stuff.
- Summer of Thairo: Speaking of making your way back from injury, it’s hard not to feel great for Thairo Estrada. The Yankees’ camp MVP will be on the Opening Day roster two years after getting shot in the 2018 offseason and stifling his development. He had three home runs in camp and is as feel-good of a story as you can find.
- Jordan Montgomery Optioned (For Now): Okay, don’t freak out, but the Yankees optioned Jordan Montgomery today. Have no fear, though. Everything is okay. This is just a temporary move to get an extra reliever before the Yankees use him on July 28. It’s a smart move, especially considering the bullpen game on Sunday.
- Other Roster Moves: In addition to optioning Gumby (and those listed above), there were a bunch of other moves, none of which were especially surprising. Check them all out here:
- New Road Protocol: Luke Voit says the Yankees gave players a “disinfectant kit” for when they’re on the road. Pandemic baseball, baby.
- Yankees Protesting: The Yankees are discussing some sort of a protest before Thursday’s game, including kneeling during the national anthem. Aaron Judge opened up a bit about that today and Aaron Boone said he’d support his team no matter what they do.
- New Yankee Captain: After the Yankees were eliminated by the Astros in Houston last year, Aaron Judge gathered his teammates in the locker room and said to “‘remember this feeling, this silence, this emptiness and just use it as fuel. Don’t use it to mope about it, linger about it. Use it as fuel going into this next season to, you know, just take care of business.” Boone said it made an impression. While it’s not exactly a surprising thing to say, especially from Judge, it’s yet another example of the leadership role Judge has assumed. With CC gone and Brett Gardner set to retire, there is no doubt who the Yankees’ leader is set to be for years to come.
No intrasquad or anything tonight, obviously. The Yanks got in some final tuneups before heading down to D.C. for Opening Day. It should be a quiet night. If anything interesting happens, we’ll keep you covered – until then, have a good night, everyone.