Rafael Soriano on track to rejoin Yankees’ bullpen next week

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Rafael Soriano has been out since mid-May with an elbow injury, but yesterday manager Joe Girardi told Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com that he’ll “probably” be cleared to come off the disabled list by Wednesday or Thursday of next week.

Soriano had a 5.40 ERA in 16 appearances before the injury, but turned in five straight scoreless outings before being shut down and Girardi has already indicated that he’ll resume serving as the Yankees’ primary eighth-inning setup man once healthy.

Some of that has to do with Joba Chamberlain being out for the season following Tommy John elbow surgery, but David Robertson made the All-Star team with a dominant first half and has a 3.37 ERA with 231 strikeouts in 174 innings, so he’d clearly be capable of remaining in the eighth-inning role while Soriano tries to get on track.

Also a potential factor: Soriano earning $10 million this season and the Yankees owing him another $25 million for the next two years.

Before that can even be an issue Soriano must first avoid a setback while working on consecutive days, which he’ll attempt Sunday and Monday in the minors.

Masahiro Tanaka to throw off a mound this weekend

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Earlier this month Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka strained both of his hamstrings while running the bases in an interleague game against the Mets and was sent to the 10-day DL. Today it was announced that the beginning of the end of most DL stints for pitchers — throwing off of a mound — is in Tanaka’s immediate future.

Tanaka is scheduled to throw off a mound Sunday, which will be his first real (well, fake real) pitching action since the June 9th injury. Assuming the session goes well, Tanaka is expected to return to the Yankees’ starting rotation sometime in early-to-mid July. With the All-Star break coming the week of July 16, it would not be hard to imagine the Yankees giving him a few extra days to get right.

Tanaka is 7-2 with a 4.58 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 73/19 in 72.2 innings on the season.