The New York Yankees' fading playoff hopes took a huge hit Thursday when all-star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was diagnosed with a small tear in his right elbow ligament that could end his season.
Tanaka, the Yankees' ace, will try to rehab his elbow during the next few weeks to see if he can avoid Tommy John surgery, which would keep him sidelined until 2016.
If surgery is not necessary, Tanaka will miss at least six weeks, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said, and realistically would not return until September.
"Hopefully no more than six weeks," Cashman told news reporters. "Time will tell. It's a disappointing situation and one that none of us wanted to be talking about or experiencing.
"Unfortunately, the facts are the facts. We found out now, and we know what we're dealing with."
Tanaka, the Yankee's $175 million free-agent investment from Japan, had been dominant most of the season, winning 12 games with a 2.51 ERA. He was 11-1 with a 1.91 ERA in his first 12 starts, but has struggled of late. He complained of elbow soreness after being clobbered in his last start Monday against the Cleveland Indians -- a game in which he allowed a season-high 10 hits and five runs -- and visited Yankees team physician Chris Ahmad on Thursday in Seattle.
"He has seen three physicians, our chief physicians," Cashman said, "... all three agree on a diagnosis that he has a new injury, he has a partially-torn ligament in his throwing arm. The ligament tear is considered small, and the Yankees have had success with pitchers that have had these. We have actually had them continue to throw without incident, and they have gotten back to their normal levels.
"It doesn't rule out the possibility of a Tommy John in a failed attempt, but all three doctors agree on the diagnosis and the rehab protocol. We are going to follow their recommendation.
-- USA Today