Despite being diagnosed with a torn UCL, Masahiro Tanaka is hoping to return to the New York Yankees rotation towards the end of September. Though the injury, in most cases, leads to Tommy John surgery, Tanaka is attempting to pitch through it, and is working a rehab program before opting for surgery on his elbow.
According to Bryan Hoch, the New York Yankees beat writer for MLB.com:
The 10 fastballs that Masahiro Tanaka fired across the flat ground of Camden Yards’ outfield grass on Wednesday afternoon may not seem like much, but they represented another important step as the right-hander works to return to the mound this season.
Tanaka still needs to advance to throwing bullpens and batting practice, then facing hitters in games, but said that [he] feels no pain in his elbow. Tanaka believes that it is possible he will make it back to the big leagues in September.
Tanaka had been outstanding for the Yankees prior to his injury, making eighteen starts with a 2.51 ERA and a near-unheard-of 7.11 K/BB ratio. He won his first six decisions as a starter, and the team went 13-5 when he started a game. The Yankees have Tanaka under contract for six more seasons after 2014, and regardless of whether or not Tanaka pitches again this year, he is still likely to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the balance of the 2015 season.
The Yankees currently sit at 61-58, eight games back of the Baltimore Orioles for the American League East, but only 3.5 games back of the Detroit Tigers for the second Wild Card spot. Though Tanaka's impact would be limited considering his time table for a return, there is a possibility, at least at this point, that he could take the mound for a meaningful game in September with playoff implications for the Yankees.