Masahiro Tanaka Plays Catch, Continues to Progress One Week After Line Drive Hits Head

Max Goodman

When Yankees' right-hander Masahiro Tanaka was struck on the side of the head by a line drive last weekend, he collapsed on the mound, laying motionless for several minutes. 

Exactly one week later, the hurler was spotted back on the field at Yankee Stadium, continuing to progress from the scary incident.

Tanaka emerged from the Yankees' dugout in the midst of a rainstorm in the Bronx, throwing lightly on the outfield grass. He worked his way back to about 90 feet adjacent to the tarp covering the infield before the rain picked up and he was forced to jog off the field. 

With a smile on his face, the Japanese star tossed the ball he was using deep into the second deck, waving to sections of empty seats. 

As much as his injury last Saturday was horrifying – making skipper Aaron Boone immediately fear for the righties life – Tanaka resuming his throwing program isn't too much of a surprise. Since he was released from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital hours after the comebacker, diagnosed with a mild concussion, he's been in good spirits according to the Yankees' coaching staff and his teammates. 

"It's amazing. He seems great, he seems completely normal," James Paxton said Saturday afternoon. "I think we got extremely lucky in that situation, it could have been way worse and he's bounced back incredibly."

In the days after he was drilled by the 112-mph line drive off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton, Tanaka began increasing his heart rate, working out on the exercise bicycle. Boone said the concussion-like symptoms that Tanaka displayed in the moments after he was struck dissipated shortly after and he hasn't felt them ever since. 

On Saturday, Boone had more positive news to report on the Yankees' hurler.

"He has been able to play catch a couple times now," Boone revealed, explaining the club has been taking it slow with the veteran starter. "He's responding well to the elevated heart rate stuff where he's on the bike, on the elliptical, doing his arm care work and responding well."

Boone confirmed that Tanaka is still in concussion protocol and even with the progress he's has made over the last seven days, it's important to proceed with caution.  

"Anytime we're talking about a concussion, we're making sure we're moving slowly and smartly," Boone explained. "So, no plan in place about when exactly things are going to happen, but he is at least responding how we how we hoped."

While the Yankees are unsure whether or not Tanaka will be ready to go come Opening Day, Paxton is continuing to stride closer to his return after lower back surgery this offseason.

Fresh off his outing in a simulated game early last week, Paxton threw about 65 pitches on Friday while the rest of the Yankees were off due to rain. Even with news of Aroldis Chapman testing positive for COVID-19 – joining reliever Luis Cessa and second baseman DJ LeMahieu – Paxton believes the Yankees' staff is ready and able to succeed this summer.

"We feel really good about our group, you know we have a lot of really good pictures. A lot of great bullpen arms, a lot of good starting arms, I think we're set up really well to the take the season on.

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