Michael Pineda cleared to begin rehab assignment

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Michael Pineda has been cleared to take a big step in his long road back from shoulder surgery, as the Yankees right-hander is scheduled to begin a minor-league rehab assignment Saturday at Single-A.

Pineda has been throwing in extended spring training without any setbacks and Dan Martin of the New York Post reports that he threw 65 pitches in his last outing there.

Pineda has yet to appear in a regular season game for the Yankees, who acquired him from the Mariners for then-stud prospect Jesus Montero in January of 2012. He showed a ton of promise as a 22-year-old rookie in 2011, striking out 173 batters in 171 innings, but at this point no one seems quite sure what to expect from Pineda.

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.