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Tanaka throws sim game, potential early September return

The Yankees are eyeing a possible early mid-September return for their injured ace Masahiro Tanaka. This morning he threw another successful simulated game today that included all of his pitches, and looked pretty comfortable out there. He threw a 49-pitch outing to infielder Brendan Ryan, who actually batted from both sides of the plate according to ESPN New York. Manager Joe Girardi seemed very pleased with today’s results and thinks his return is right around the corner.

Tanaka could return potentially return in two weeks, maybe as early as the series against Baltimore. But Girardi has yet to place a firm date on Tanaka’s return, he continues to be mindful that there are still a few hurdles he must face. “As long as you’re having steps in the right direction, it’s working,” Girardi said via Bryan Hoch. “That doesn’t mean that it’s a guarantee. If you have a setback, it probably means surgery. It’s not like rehabbing a hamstring or something like that, where you can have a setback and, ‘OK, we’ve got to sit him down.’ If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.”

The team has actually handled Tanaka’s rehab very well, carefully controlling all aspects of the process. There hasn’t been any setbacks and Tanaka has said on multiple occasions he’s pain-free. So now it just comes down to where and how they get him ready for big league action. With the minor league calendar ending this weekend, the Yankees will likely replicate at least two rehab starts in lieu of sending him out on what would few a regular minor league assignment. The goal is to get Tanaka’s pitch count to anywhere between 75-90 pitches, but need to make sure his arm strength and conditioning are also up to par. “You obviously feel better that it’s going to happen, but I still talk about the intensity of a Major League game compared to a Minor League game or a simulated game,” Girardi said. “Those are the hurdles that you have to go through.”

September call-ups coming the Yankees could easily create a few simulated outings that will get Tanaka ready. It might not be ideal, but with the playoffs on the line, the Yankees are banking on a healthy Tanaka back in the rotation.