Masahiro Tanaka took the next step in his rehab after throwing a 25-pitch bullpen session on Saturday, and the New York Yankees ace says he plans on returning no matter how out of it the Yanks are in September.
Tanaka's session was the first time he's thrown off a mound since his injury. He ended up coming out of it with no pain, which makes about two weeks of pain-free throwing for the 25-year-old. The next step will be throwing breaking balls off the mound.
With the Yankees struggling mightily and continuing to fall out of the playoff picture, many assume Tanaka won't return because it would be pointless to have him risk re-injuring himself in a lost season.
That isn't Tanaka's thinking, however, and the Japanese star says he will return no matter what the Yanks' playoff standing is, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com:
Masahiro Tanaka said that even if the Yankees are mathematically out of the race in September, he'd still want to come back and pitch.
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) August 16, 2014
Even if the Yanks are out of it, there may be some value to allowing Tanaka to take the mound.
For starters, the Yanks can see where he is physically and if he can still be dominant after returning from the injury. Also, if he's successful, that would put to bed some of the doubts about Tanaka's viability in 2015 and beyond.
Regardless of when he pitches, whether it be now or in 2015, the risk will remain for Tanaka, so there's no benefit in sitting him for longer because it won't help heal his injury anymore. Once he's ready to take the ball again, his elbow will be as healthy as it can be under the circumstances.
This also says a lot about Tanaka. He isn't shying away from getting back on the field and even if the Yanks are in the depths of the wild card standings, Tanaka still wants to hurry back and help his team.
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Tags: Baseball, MLB, New York, New York Yankees