New York Yankees 25-year-old ace Masahiro Tanaka will throw a bullpen session this weekend, a key step on his road to a comeback from a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
The bullpen session is scheduled for Saturday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters before his team's walk-off, 5-4 win over the rival Boston Red Sox Thursday night. Girardi said the team hopes Tanaka is able to pitch for the Yankees before the end of the season.
Either way, if it's with the Yankees or somewhere after the major-league season, Girardi said the Yankees want to see if he can pitch with the partially torn ligament in his elbow. If he has trouble, it would likely mean he would face Tommy John surgery.
"He has to throw," Girardi said, according to ESPN.com. "You can't wait until next spring.
"If you shut him down, it's surgery. It's not like it's going to be, 'Well, let's see how it is next year.' We're going to proceed and it's either going to be he's healthy or he needs surgery.''
Despite suffering an injury that typically results in Tommy John surgery, the Yankees and Tanaka opted to use a six-week rehab program to see if he could avoid the procedure. Tanaka had been progressing in his recovery, but was shut down last week after experiencing soreness in his arm following pitching in a simulated game.
At the time he was injured, Tanaka led the American League with 12 wins and had a 2.51 ERA. With their win Thursday night, the Yankees sit 3.5 games back of the Seattle Mariners in the race for the AL's second Wild Card spot.