Tanaka optimistic of avoiding Tommy John surgery

Tanaka optimistic of avoiding Tommy John surgery

NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka was one of baseball's best stories over his 18 starts in the first half, and the Yankees right-hander is hopeful that he will be able to throw a few more pitches before the season is out.

Tanaka said on Friday that he is going along with the recommendations of the three doctors who examined the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, and he is optimistic that a six-week rehab program will allow him to avoid reconstructive surgery.

"All I can do is to believe them and go with the treatment and the rehab program that the team will be having for us," Tanaka said through an interpreter.

Tanaka said that the discomfort in his pitching elbow started during his July 8 outing against the Indians in Cleveland, which was Tanaka's worst start of the year. The 25-year-old said that he never felt any issues before that night.

"The irritation or the pain came during that day in Cleveland when I was pitching," he said. "It was something that just gradually kind of built up. After the game, I told the team and the trainers that it was bothering me and it was hurting."

Tanaka said that even though he felt pain and not normal soreness, he did not fear a significant injury until an MRI exam confirmed the small tear of his UCL. Tanaka had a platelet-rich plasma injection on Monday in New York, and the Yankees plan to give Tanaka three weeks of full rest without throwing.

"I'm going to start on my throwing program once it becomes pain-free," Tanaka said. "It could be anytime. I wouldn't say tomorrow or anything. We just have to wait and see how the outlook is."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that once Tanaka is symptom-free, the team will put him on a throwing program. Bullpen sessions, batting practices and Minor League rehab games would all follow.

"The important thing here is that what happened is what happened, and I have to accept that," Tanaka said. "Right now, my focus is to accept it and try to get back on the mound. That's basically where I'm at."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.