Tanaka wants to make one final start

Tanaka wants to make one final start

NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka says that he wants to make his final start of the regular season, tentatively scheduled for Saturday against the Orioles, even if the Yankees have been eliminated from postseason contention by then.

Tanaka, who had a start skipped on Monday due to a small flexor mass strain in his right forearm, played catch on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka made 25 tosses at a distance of 60 feet and said that he is planning to take the ball for one more turn in the rotation.

"Regardless of the situation that we're in, I'd like to go out and pitch," Tanaka said.

Tanaka complained of some tightness following his last start, during which he served up a career-high four home runs in an 11-5 victory over the Rays. Even so, Tanaka felt that he could have pitched on Monday in Toronto, something that he relayed to Dr. Christopher Ahmad, the Yankees' head team physician.

"Our biggest focus will be having a healthy Tanaka," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "He's reacted well to obviously pushing him back, and what we do next -- depending on how he feels and the doctor's recommendation and the trainers -- the biggest thing is making sure that he's healthy. It looks like that's going in that right direction."

Tanaka entered Tuesday's games as the American League's ERA leader, owning a 3.07 mark, ahead of Rick Porcello of the Red Sox (3.11), Aaron Sanchez of the Blue Jays (3.12) and Corey Kluber of the Indians (3.19).

The Tigers' Michael Fulmer owns a 2.95 ERA in 155 2/3 innings, just shy of qualifying. Though Tanaka is vying to be the Yankees' first AL ERA leader since Rudy May in 1980, Cashman and manager Joe Girardi said that Tanaka's pursuit of that title will not factor into the club's decision to pitch him.

The Yankees' elimination number in the postseason was two entering play on Tuesday.

"We've been living somewhat day by day here, so we have not talked about that," Girardi said. "I know that's a valid question to ask. I think if it something happens to that effect, it's something we would talk about, definitely."

Regardless of whether he sees the mound again or not, it has been a fine season for Tanaka, who has a career-high 14 victories against four losses in 31 starts. With 199 2/3 innings pitched, he needs to record just one out to reach the 200 mark for the first time as a big leaguer.

"As a result, I guess you could say I'm satisfied with that," Tanaka said. "The more important thing here was that I was able to pitch a full season. I'm having some hiccups here, but in general from that, I think I was able to pitch throughout the whole season. That part means a lot to me."

Worth noting

• Second baseman Starlin Castro returned to the Yankees' starting lineup on Tuesday for the first time since playing at Fenway Park on Sept. 17, when he sustained a Grade 1 right hamstring strain. Castro pinch-hit in the eighth inning on Monday in Toronto after missing seven games.

"The way he pulled up, I think we thought it was a lot worse than it was," Girardi said. "But once we found out it was Grade 1, you felt like a younger guy might be able to come back quicker, and he's done a really good job. He really wants to be out there, and I think that has something to do with it."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. 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.