The growing feeling that Masahiro Tanaka could actually return to the New York Yankees and pitch again in the 2014 season is starting to get bigger with each step that the 25-year-old takes.
Tanaka will take his next step towards making such a return on Saturday when he will face live hitters for the first time since injuring his elbow back in July, as he will throw a round of batting practice, which Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced on Thursday before their series finale against the Houston Astros.
Tanaka threw a bullpen session of 35 pitches on Wednesday, which featured breaking balls and splitters; which is his signature strikeout pitch this season, another great sign that Tanaka could be taking the proper steps needed to make a return in September.
Before getting hurt, Tanaka went 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA and a 135/19 K/BB rate in 18 starts and 129 1/3 innings. Tanaka's last appearance was back in July against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field where the Indians roughed him up for five runs; after the start it was determined that Tanaka had the small tear in his PCL in the right elbow, but Tommy John Surgery wasn't necessary after visiting four seperate doctors.
With CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova both out for the season, Tanaka's return would be huge to the moral of the Yankees, but with the Yankees slowly fading in the playoff race, Tanaka's return next month if able to pitch again this season, could be too little, too late.
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