Yankees' Tanaka plays catch at 'higher intensity,' team targeting September return

Joe Wolfond
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees rookie sensation Masahiro Tanaka continues to work towards rehabbing his partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament, and his progress thus far has been encouraging enough to suggest that he may indeed be able to avoid season-ending Tommy John surgery.

After throwing a baseball on Monday for the first time since the injury diagnosis nearly a month ago, Tanaka was back at it again on Tuesday, this time ramping up the intensity.  

The Yankees have managed an admirable patch job on their rotation, which, before Tanaka went down, had already been operating without CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, or Michael Pineda. They've gotten particularly stout production from recent acquisition Brandon McCarthy, who's gone 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 2.74 FIP in his five starts with New York. 

For all their injuries, the Yankees still somehow sit at 58-53, just a game out of the AL's second Wild Card spot. If Tanaka can get himself back onto a big-league mound before the season is up, they'll have a serious ace in the hole heading into the stretch run. 

For his part, GM Brian Cashman appears optimistic about said ace's chances of returning: