Masahiro Tanaka inches closer to a return with the Yankees as he prepares to throw his final bullpen session before making a rehab start.
KANSAS CITY — Masahiro Tanaka will throw a third — and presumably final — bullpen session on Monday in Washington, setting him up to begin a minor-league rehab assignment next Thursday.
Tanaka, who hasn’t started since April 23 because of wrist tendinitis and a mild forearm strain, reported no problems Saturday after throwing 35 pitches in the bullpen Friday afternoon.
“We just felt that it would be good for him to throw one more, because he hasn’t thrown in a while,” Joe Girardi said. “We’ll make sure he’s sharp, then he’ll go down and make a rehab start.”
Although Girardi said no decisions had been made, Tanaka’s rehab start would likely take place with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which is home this week.
Girardi wouldn’t speculate how many starts Tanaka would need once his rehab assignment begins, though he would likely need at least two outings before returning from the DL.
“I think you have to see where he’s at and how many pitches he gets to (in the first start),” Girardi said. “The one thing you don’t want is to have to be in a situation where he can only give you three or four innings.”
REST FOR A-ROD
With this week’s series in Washington being played under National League rules, Alex Rodriguez could find himself on the bench for the two games against the Nationals. Girardi recently said he wanted to keep A-Rod out of the field, which would relegate him to pinch-hitting duties without the use of the DH spot.
Girardi hasn’t committed to keeping A-Rod on the bench, though it would be surprising if he played him in the field.
“The good thing about Monday is I have a day off to think about what I want to do,” Girardi said.
The Yankees may be without Alex Rodriguez’s bat when they visit Washington D.C. and play under National League rules.
Back in 2009, the Yankees had nine straight games in NL parks, leaving Hideki Matsui as a man without a position. Girardi made his displeasure over the odd schedule clear at the time as Matsui made eight plate appearances during the nine-game stretch.
With off days on Monday and Thursday, A-Rod could conceivably take only two at-bats over a four-day stretch, giving his 39-year-old body a chance to rest. Matsui went on a tear after the forced time off, hitting .349 with five home runs and 14 RBI over his next 15 games.
“I was the one complaining that was about it,” Girardi said. “And that was when Matsui took off, after that nine in a row.”
Chris Capuano will return from the DL on Sunday, starting against the Royals in the series finale. Capuano missed the first 38 games with a strained quad he suffered while covering first base during a spring start on March 11.
“It’s felt good for three or four weeks now,” Capuano said. “But once it felt good, I basically had to go through spring training again. It was just a matter of getting up arm strength and my endurance up.”
Capuano said he started feeling strong and sharp during his last start Tuesday with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, as he threw 76 pitches over six innings before going to the bullpen for another simulated inning that got his pitch count to 90.
The 36-year-old lefthander doesn’t think he’ll have any trepidation covering first base, though he admitted that wasn’t the case when he first came back during his rehab.
“The first couple of games I felt like my reactions were a little bit slower getting over there; I was a little hesitant to go full speed,” Capuano said. “The last few games I’ve had no hesitation covering, fielding bunts, even sprinting in my pregame work. The leg feels like a non-issue. It feels good.”
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