Hamstring OK, Tanaka rejoins rotation

Right-hander would be lined up to start Wild Card Game

Hamstring OK, Tanaka rejoins rotation

NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka will return to the mound on Wednesday for one final regular-season start, taking on the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium in a start that should line him up to pitch the potential American League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser on additional rest.

"I'm not looking at this as a tune-up," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "You know, as I've done for each and every one of my starts, I'm going to go out there and give the best I have."

Tanaka has not pitched since Sept. 18 due to a Grade 1 right hamstring strain, which he sustained while running out of the batter's box in an Interleague game against the Mets. Tanaka went through fielding practice on Monday, the final test he needed to clear.

"I think we all wanted to get to this day," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We wanted to make sure that he felt good and he could go through all the things that he needed to go through. He's passed all those hurdles, so we're going to put him in Wednesday."

Tanaka, 26, is 12-7 with a 3.38 ERA in 23 starts this season, his second in the Majors, and Girardi said that he "probably" would align Tanaka to pitch the Oct. 6 game on one additional day of rest.

Noting that the rest could prove to be a benefit, Tanaka said that there are no pitch count or inning limitations that will hold him back from throwing full force; if there were, he would not be pitching.

"It's something that will be in the back of his head, but he's pitched through it the day at Citi Field for four innings and had no issues, and he's had 10 or 11 days off, so we feel pretty good about it," Girardi said.

Tanaka also said he would not be impacted if the Red Sox -- or the Yanks' Wild Card opponent -- wanted to test his hamstring by bunting early in the game.

"If they happen to do that, I do have a little bit of confidence in my fielding abilities," Tanaka said. "So I'll be able to maybe get a couple of easy outs. That might work in my favor."

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