Tanaka was alert and sent to a hospital after being hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of New York slugger Giancarlo Stanton during live batting practice Saturday, a frightening scene moments into the team’s first official summer camp workout.
Tanaka's hat flew off and he immediately collapsed to the ground and grabbed his head. Trainers quickly ran to the Japanese right-hander, who stayed down for a few minutes before sitting up. “That’s kind of a freak accident, one in a million chance of happening," said left-hander Jordan Montgomery, who replaced Tanaka on the mound moments later. “When it does, it’s terrifying.”
Trainers tended to Tanaka's head and appeared to check his vision. He was helped to his feet and walked off the field with help. The Yankees said in a statement that Tanaka was responsive and walking under his own power. He was sent to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for further evaluation.
The 31-year-old Tanaka was 11-9 with a 4.45 ERA last season. The Japanese star is 75-43 in six years with the Yankees. Tanaka's injury took an already bizarre day and turned it somber. Yankees players reported to New York on Wednesday for intake testing as Major League Baseball tries to start a truncated, 60-game season on July 23 amid the coronavirus pandemic. No New York players have been among the reported positive tests for COVID-19 this week.
After spending a few days preparing the stadium to host workouts for the team's 60-player roster pool, the Yankees gathered Saturday for their first official day back. Most coaches and some players, including Stanton, wore facemasks as the club went through drills in the eerily empty stadium.
Things started strange, then got worse. Before they even began the workout, a few Yankees players were startled mid-stretch when someone set off a firework just outside the ballpark. More bangs intermittently echoed throughout the stadium during the July 4 session.
About 45 minutes after Tanaka was hit, a deafening siren went off inside Yankee Stadium, drowning out music playing through the PA system for about 30 seconds. Emergency lights flashed for about five minutes, as well. The alarm sounded again seconds after the team announced that Tanaka was alert.
The moment with Tanaka, of course, was most troubling of all. Stanton, who had his jaw broken by a high fastball in 2014, bent over at home plate and watched motionlessly before walking slowly toward the mound.
Meanwhile, Judge glared at a photographer set up behind home plate and told him to stop shooting. The moment aired live on a YES Network feed and was shared quickly on Twitter, including by sports network SNY, which airs New York Mets games.
“I understand that people are doing their job and want to show everything we are doing,” tweeted shortstop Gleyber Torres. "I understand that, but showing that exact moment that happened with our teammate does not seem right to us, we feel terrible to see the video in each part of social media.
“I understand that they have to write what happened but do not show that moment, Praying for Tanaka!” Yankees players, some still stretching at the start of the club’s first official practice, stood or knelt silently.
“As soon as you step on the field, anything can happen," outfielder Aaron Hicks said. Stanton was the third batter Tanaka faced to start the session, and no protective screen was in place. The music that was playing over the sound system was turned off, and Montgomery requested a protective net be set up before he started throwing to hitters about five minutes after Tanaka walked off.
“Some people like doing it, some don’t,” Montgomery said about using the L-shaped screen. “I requested it after that, just because I was little shaken up.” The music was turned on a few minutes later and played through the rest of the workout.
Some Yankees pitchers got another during batting practice, when a line drive rocketed into a pack of players gathered along the left field line. Nobody appeared to be hit by the ball.
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