Masahiro Tanaka to throw against live hitters Saturday

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Masahiro Tanaka’s attempt to avoid Tommy John elbow surgery with the rest-and-rehab approach has gone well enough that the Yankees right-hander will face live hitters for the first time Saturday.

Tanaka has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, which almost always leads to surgery eventually, but he’s been throwing bullpen sessions and now Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York reports that he’ll throw batting practice against a few teammates to test the injury further.

If that goes well a simulated game would be the next step, so there are still some sizable hurdles to clear before Tanaka seeing some action for the Yankees in September is a realistic possibility.

Before being shut down Tanaka was having a brilliant, Cy Young-caliber rookie season, going 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA and 135/19 K/BB ratio in 129 innings.