Aug 15, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) smiles in the dugout against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Yankees encouraged by Tanaka's bullpen session

New York Yankees’ ailing ace Masahiro Tanaka threw from the mound for the first time since being diagnosed with a partially torn collateral ligament five weeks ago. Granted, it was a bullpen mound but a mound nonetheless.

The Yankees were encouraged by Tanaka’s progress. Most players diagnosed with a torn or even partially torn UCL opt for Tommy John surgery the recovery from which is usually 12-18 months. Tanaka, however, vowed to try to make a comeback this season and took the second option of attempting to rehabilitate the torn ligament.

Tanaka had been just playing catch prior to Saturday. Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi said it was a big step for the Japanese born rookie,

“I am [encouraged]. I’ve been somewhat guarded, in a sense, because I think you’ve got to get in competition, but obviously it’s another step, and it’s significantly more than just playing catch.”

Tanaka threw 25 four-seam fastballs in the bullpen at Tropicana field before the Yankees took on the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tanaka is still at least a month away from playing in a major league game which most likely will not be in time to help the Yankees catch the Baltimore Orioles who are currently eight games up in the American League East.

Girardi said he sees Tanaka as more of an option for next season as opposed to him coming back to help them attempt to make the playoffs. He also said that getting him into some games before the end of the year would be a priority.

I think it’s important that we know that he’s healthy,” Girardi said, “and I think the only way you’re going to find out is if you get him in games.”

Tanaka said he was not throwing with the intensity he would need to be able to throw in a game, yet.

“I’m not going to go 100 percent on the first day of bullpens,” he said. “But I felt that I was able to throw the way I wanted to. Just the fact that I was able to get through it without any pain.”

There is still no timetable set for Tanaka’s return. It could be awhile and not necessarily this season.

Tags: Masahiro Tanaka New York Yankees

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