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Masahiro Tanaka to throw against live hitters Saturday

Aug 21, 2014, 2:24 PM EDT

Masahiro Tanaka AP

Masahiro Tanaka‘s attempt to avoid Tommy John elbow surgery with the rest-and-rehab approach has gone well enough that the Yankees right-hander will face live hitters for the first time Saturday.

Tanaka has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, which almost always leads to surgery eventually, but he’s been throwing bullpen sessions and now Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York reports that he’ll throw batting practice against a few teammates to test the injury further.

If that goes well a simulated game would be the next step, so there are still some sizable hurdles to clear before Tanaka seeing some action for the Yankees in September is a realistic possibility.

Before being shut down Tanaka was having a brilliant, Cy Young-caliber rookie season, going 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA and 135/19 K/BB ratio in 129 innings.

  1. neoshweaty - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:27 PM

    Hope he doesn’t end up going under the knife. He’s a special talent and the game is better with him playing.

  2. proudlycanadian - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Couldn’t find enough dead hitters?

    • philliesblow - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:13 PM

      Plenty of dead pull hitters available but they couldn’t find any willing to hit against the shift.

  3. Black Dog - Aug 21, 2014 at 7:00 PM

    This is tricky moral territory. It’s tough to rush Tanaka back onto the mound. On the other hand, the track record of pitchers avoiding Tommy John surgery through rest and rehab is very poor.

    There would seem to be a good chance that Tanaka will tear the ligament once he starts throwing 40 splitters a game again. If that’s the case, the sooner he has the surgery, the better for him and the Yankees.

    The fear, if I’m a Yankee fan, is that he makes one or two starts in September, then tears the ligament early next season, once he’s back to a full workload. If that happens, he could miss 2015 and 2016.

    Real rock and a hard place.

    • larrymahnken - Aug 21, 2014 at 7:24 PM

      He could also get surgery, come back in Spring Training, 2016, and then tear the UCL again and need surgery again. All surgery does is guarantee that he’s out a year, if there’s any chance of avoiding it then it should be pursued. And it seems at this point that there’s a plausible chance that he won’t need surgery.

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