Yankees rotation depth to be tested

When New York Yankees pitcher Chase Whitley exited his start against the Tampa Bay Rays with elbow discomfort, it was expected that bad news was on the way. Monday that news surfaced in the form of season-ending Tommy John surgery.

The right-hander left the mound Thursday night flexing his hand after only 1.2 innings. The 25-year-old posted a 4.19 ERA with 16 strikeouts in four starts this season. Whitley will be the third Yankee to make the disabled list in the past three weeks, joining teammates Masahiro Tanaka and Chris Martin.

Tanaka, who has been on the disabled list since April 28 with right wrist tendinitis and right forearm strain, has reported no issues since his early leave. He threw 29 pitches in a bullpen at Nationals Park on Monday, and could be heading for rehabilitation assignment Thursday. ‘Encouraging’ continues to be the word on Tanaka’s recovery.

Ivan Nova is expected back next month from his recovery of Tommy John performed in April 2014. The right-hander threw 42 pitches through three innings against Philadelphia minor leaguers.

Though a Tanaka return would be huge for the New York bullpen, it wouldn’t fix all the rotation’s problems. Upon return both Tanaka and Nova would be monitored heavily. The likelihood of any pitcher in the rotation with a lock on 200 innings is still very high up in the air.

Nathan Eovaldi and CC Sabathia aren’t likely to reach ace potential anytime soon, and though Michael Pineda has been the real show-up man on the mound, it’s unsure how far into the season he’ll venture. Suspension held up his inning count last year, and he fell 20 innings short of 200 his All-Star year in Seattle.

The already questionable depth of the Yankees rotation is sure to show itself with the loss of Whitley. He will undergo surgery Tuesday, performed by team doctor Christopher Ahmad. Chris Capuano returned from the disabled list Sunday to assume the No. 5 position in the rotation.

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