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Tanaka could make return against Blue Jays

AP

Masahiro Tanaka is likely to rejoin the New York Yankees’ rotation on Sunday after an absence of more than two months.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi says the right-hander is tentatively set to get the start against Toronto at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka will throw another bullpen session before the game.

“He’s pitching if he’s OK,” Girardi said before Tuesday night’s game against Tampa Bay. “We’ll see how he holds up.”

Tanaka will have a limit of 70 to 75 pitches against the Blue Jays. He has been sidelined since July 9 because of a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

If Tanaka doesn’t have any setbacks, he would get a second outing during the Yankees’ season-ending series at Boston.

Tanaka thinks a couple of starts can be used to determine whether he can avoid surgery.

“I think so, if I’m able to go out there and have a strong outing,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “I feel it would give some good confidence.”

Tanaka threw 65 pitches during five scoreless innings in an instructional league simulated game Monday, allowing six hits and striking out four.

New York agreed in January to pay the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles $20 million over 18 months for right to Tanaka, then gave the pitcher a $155 million, seven-year contract. He started 11-1 with a 1.99 ERA in his first 14 appearances and is 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 18 starts.