A frightening scene unfolded Saturday at Yankee Stadium when right-handed slugger Giancarlo Stanton smoked a screaming line drive off pitcher Masahiro Tanaka during the team’s afternoon practice session. Stanton winced as soon as he made contract, knowing the ball was headed straight for his teammate’s head. The incident was captured live on YES Network.
Tanaka lay motionless for several minutes before finally being helped off the field. Jake Seiner of the Associated Press notes the Yankees had not set up an L screen for Tanaka, which is standard practice for BP, though not necessarily the case during simulated at-bats. The pitcher who followed Tanaka, left-handed hurler Jordan Montgomery, had a protective screen installed before taking the mound. It’s too early to determine the severity of Tanaka’s injury, though the Yankees confirmed he's been transported to a local hospital for observation.
Among the most powerful hitters in the sport, Stanton ranked fourth among qualified hitters in exit velocity in 2018 (shoulder and biceps injuries limited him to 18 games last season). His maximum velocity of 121.7 mph that year was easily the league’s highest.
Tanaka didn’t enjoy one of his better seasons last year (11-9, 4.45 ERA over 180 regular-season innings), but the 31-year-old workhorse from Japan is still a key contributor on a team with World Series aspirations. The Bombers boast a deep starter corps with Gerrit Cole, James Paxton, J.A. Happ and Montgomery rounding out the team’s rotation, though Tanaka’s loss would certainly be felt if his head injury proves serious.