Joe Girardi: Tanaka 'has to throw'

NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka has a bullpen session scheduled for Saturday, and the hope is that he still has time to come back and pitch for the New York Yankees this season.

With time running out, it's not at all certain that he will pitch for the Yankees again this year. What is certain, manager Joe Girardi said Thursday, is that unless Tanaka has a serious setback, he will pitch somewhere before shutting things down for the winter.

"He has to throw," Girardi said. "You can't wait until next spring.

"If you shut him down, it's surgery. It's not like it's going to be, 'Well, let's see how it is next year.' We're going to proceed and it's either going to be he's healthy or he needs surgery.''

In other words, the Yankees and Tanaka need to find out whether he can pitch with the partially torn ligament in his right elbow. If not, Tanaka would need Tommy John surgery, which requires a full year of recovery time.

Tanaka played catch again Thursday. He had progressed all the way to throwing a simulated game last week, but then experienced soreness in his right arm and was shut down for several days.

Girardi said he's not sure whether Tanaka will be ready for another simulated game if Saturday's bullpen session goes well. The Yankees' season ends three weeks from Sunday, so Tanaka will need to progress quickly to get in a game.

If he doesn't make it in time, the Yankees could set up a game for him at their instructional league camp in Florida.

Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com contributed to this report.