Tanaka pitched a 65-pitch simulated game against Yankees minor leaguers Monday that impressed pitching coach Larry Rothschild. The performance prompted manager Joe Girardi to tell reporters it is "very possible" Tanaka could start this weekend in the Yankees' series against the American League East-leading Baltimore Orioles.
The team is still trying to figure out whether Tanaka's elbow can withstand live-game intensity, or whether it will require Tommy John surgery, the New York Times reported.
Tanaka is hoping to make his first pitching appearance since July 8 in Cleveland, during which he said he experienced elbow pain. He has a 12-4 record in 2014, his debut MLB season, and boasts 135 strikeouts and a 2.51 ERA over 18 starts.
New York is six games back of the last American League wild card playoff spot with 13 games left in the season.
- Will Green