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Masahiro Tanaka injury: Upcoming steps in his attempt to return

Masahiro Tanaka threw a successful bullpen session Saturday, and the Yankees are putting together a plan to move forward.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are trying to piece together a plan for Masahiro Tanaka moving forward, after he successfully completed a bullpen session on Saturday. Although he wasn't throwing with 100% effort, Tanaka said that did not experience any pain, and that he thought it was a better bullpen session than his first one during spring training. Everything seems to be going according to plan, as Tanaka was also able to play catch on Sunday and still reported that he felt good.

Larry Rothschild, the Yankees pitching coach, said that Tanaka will throw breaking balls during his next bullpen session. According to Joe Girardi, they've discussed him throwing curveballs next time out, and he added that they want him to "spin some stuff" on flat ground before he tries off the mound. They have not set a date for his next bullpen yet, as they want to monitor how he feels for a few days. Tanaka did rejoin the team and travel with them back to New York though. Since he was shutdown for quite a few weeks, the Yankees are being extra cautious that he doesn't tweak his elbow or anything else. Rothschild also commented that they are watching his facial expressions closely, to make sure he's not trying to hide any pain.

There has been some debate as to whether the Yankees should have Tanaka play again this season, especially if they find themselves out of contention, but Girardi said that the only way they'll find out if he's really healthy is by getting him in games. If he remains pain-free, we will probably see him before the season ends. As for Tanaka himself, he responded to questions about potentially returning to a team that is not in the race, by saying, "I think it's important for the team to fight until the end of the season, so for me, if it would be possible, I'd like to contribute until the end of the season." Aww.