ST. PETERSBURG -- Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to throw 25 pitches off of a bullpen mound on Saturday at Tropicana Field, which will mark the right-hander's first time throwing from the rubber since a July 8 start against the Indians.
Tanaka is continuing to rehab a partial tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament, and the Yankees are hopeful that he will be able to make it back for two or three starts at the big league level in September. Saturday's session will consist of 25 fastballs.
"I still think it's early to tell, but we're getting through each step," manager Joe Girardi said. "Hopefully tomorrow goes well and we can move to the next step."
Tanaka threw long toss and performed fielding practice from the mound on Friday afternoon, and he said that actually throwing off the mound will be a crucial step in his recovery.
"I think so," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "If I can't throw the way I want to throw on a mound or in a bullpen, then there's no way I'll be able to throw that in a game. So, definitely the bullpen will be important."
Three doctors recommended that Tanaka attempt to rehab the ligament tear instead of rushing to have Tommy John surgery. Girardi said that he hopes the process will pay dividends.
"That's why we're going through it," Girardi said. "Obviously you've got to find out if it's the proper thing to do and if his arm is going to hold up. You'd hate to shut him down the whole year and then go through it next year. Everything has been positive so far. He said he feels good, but you really don't ever know."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.