Masahiro Tanaka's long-anticipated return is almost here, and the New York Yankees are hoping it hasn't come too late for their fading playoff chances.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Tanaka is tentatively scheduled to start Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays. It would be the first time the right-hander took to a big-league mound since July 8. Girardi told reporters Tuesday that Tanaka will be on a 70-75 pitch limit.
Tanaka elected to rehab his partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, rather than have surgery, in an effort to come back to the majors before the end of the year and potentially help the Yankees' playoff push.
At this point, the outing appears more notable for the player than the team. With the Yankees six back of the American League's second wild-card spot, attention will likely focus on the condition of Tanaka's elbow and whether it requires offseason surgery.
Tanaka hasn't reported any significant setbacks with the club's rehab program, paving the way for his first start in more than two months.
Before the injury, the 25-year-old Japanese import posted a 2.51 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with 135 strikeouts in 129 1/3 innings this season.
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