Masahiro Tanaka to return vs. Jays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- After more than two months of rehabilitation on the small ligament tear in his right elbow, Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to start on Sunday for the New York Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I feel I'm good to go," Tanaka said through a translator.

The Yankees are making the decision to start Tanaka, despite their slim wild card chances. They want to gain as clear a picture as possible of how Tanaka's elbow has healed and to make as certain as possible that Tanaka will not need Tommy John surgery. In July, four medical experts advised Tanaka and the team that it was possible for Tanaka to pitch again without the surgery.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Tanaka would throw 70-75 pitches on Sunday.

"We'll see how he holds up," Girardi said.

Tanaka is 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA on the season. He last pitched on July 8th in Cleveland, which was his final time out after four starts in which he lost three games and had an ERA of 4.35. After the Indians game, he reported the elbow issues.

Prior to those four games, Tanaka was 11-1 with a 1.99 ERA in his initial 14 starts.

Tanaka, 25, figures to make two starts to end the season. One against the Blue Jays and then the following weekend against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

"More than anything I want to see if my body is able to go fully on a major league mound," Tanaka said.

Tanaka -- whom the Yankees acquired for a total sum of $175 million, which included a $20 million posting fee -- is in the first year of a seven-year contract. If he does eventually need surgery, he is expected to miss a full year.

"If I'm able to go out and have a strong outing, it will give me some good confidence," Tanaka said.