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.

Report: Rangers sign Jeff Mathis to two-year deal

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The Rangers have signed catcher Jeff Mathis to a two-year contract, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The deal is pending a physical.

Mathis turns 36 years old at the end of March and has a career .564 OPS across 14 seasons, but he is well-regarded for his defense and ability to handle a pitching staff.

The arrival of Mathis could mean the Rangers are moving on from Robinson Chirinos behind the plate, as he is now a free agent. The Rangers could go after another catcher to complement Mathis or just have Isiah Kiner-Falefa back up Mathis. Though Kiner-Falefa mostly played elsewhere, including three spots across the infield, he did rack up over 300 defensive innings behind the plate in 2018.