Somehow, Masahiro Tanaka avoided the knife.
The Japanese right-hander has not only dodged surgery, but he could soon be an option in the New York Yankees rotation. On Saturday, Tanaka threw a 35-pitch live batting practice to a couple of the Yankees' bench players, as Chad Jennings of The Journal News reports.
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild described the workout as "a good progression" for the rehabbing starter, according to Jennings. Tanaka was more critical, via Jake Kring-Schreifels of MLB.com.
"I wasn't able to hit my spots as much as I wanted to," he said.
Still, the fact that the 25-year-old had no issues with his partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow is highly encouraging.
Up next for Tanaka will be a simulated game Thursday, as manager Joe Girardi explained, via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. Girardi told Jennings that Tanaka will need to go on a rehab assignment at some undetermined date. Making that happen will require some "creative" maneuvering, as the minor league season is rapidly coming to an end.
If Tanaka does return, it could be as part of a six-man rotation. As Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes, Rothschild is exploring that idea as a means of keeping the team's arms healthy in 2014 and beyond. With the plague of elbow injuries in baseball in 2014, that will definitely be a trend to watch out for moving forward.
Still, the potential return of Tanaka ranks last because even with the starter back in the fold, the Yankees have the worst chance of making an October trip of all the teams on this list.