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 throws two-hit shutout vs. Rays

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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka went the distance, holding the Rays scoreless on two hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts across nine innings on Monday night in the Bronx. It’s the fourth shutout of his career, accounting for four of the Yankees’ last six shutouts. The other two were thrown my Luis Severino and Brandon McCarthy.

DJ LeMahieu provided the bulk of the offense, swatting a two-run home run off of Yonny Chirinos in the third inning. Cameron Maybin tacked on a solo homer off of Chirinos in the fifth as the Yankees went on to win 3-0.

After Monday’s performance, Tanaka owns a 3.23 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 20 walks across 92 innings on the season.

With the win, the Yankees increase their lead over the Rays for first place in the AL East to 1.5 games.