Masahiro Tanaka expected to be limited to 70-75 pitches in return Sunday

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Masahiro Tanaka will make his first start in the majors since July 8 on Sunday against the Blue Jays and Yankees manager Joe Girardi told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com yesterday that he will likely be limited to around 70-75 pitches.

Tanaka was diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in July, but doctors recommended rest and rehab over Tommy John surgery. He hasn’t had any setbacks so far, but pitching in a major league game will be the big test. Assuming he feels good tomorrow, it’s possible he’ll make another start on five days’ rest before the end of the year.

The Yankees are obviously hopeful that the rehab was successful, but they want to push Tanaka as far as possible to see whether they can rely on him for 2015. If not, Tommy John surgery figures to be the next step. Of course, he likely would have missed most or all of 2015 even if he had the surgery back in July, so this process has been a worthwhile gamble for the Yankees.

Tanaka, 25, had a 2.51 ERA and 135/19 K/BB ratio in 129 1/3 innings over 18 starts prior to the injury.