Tanaka tentatively slated to start on Sunday

Recovering from partially torn UCL, Yankees' ace in line for 70-75 pitches

Tanaka tentatively slated to start on Sunday

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Yankees are planning to hand the ball to Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday against the Blue Jays, clearing the ace right-hander to make his first Major League start since sustaining a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in July.

Tanaka reported no issues after throwing 65 pitches in a simulated game on Monday against instructional league hitters, and the Yankees believe that making a turn or two at the big league level will offer Tanaka some peace of mind as he heads into the offseason.

"More than anything, I want to see if my body is able to go fully on a Major League mound," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "That's by far most important to me. Also, to be able to contribute in the team's win would be something important to me, too."

Tanaka, 25, has not pitched in the big leagues since July 8 in Cleveland, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Tanaka will pitch even if Sunday's game is not mathematically meaningful to a postseason chase.

"I kind of took it step by step, getting myself to this point," said Tanaka, who was 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 18 first-half starts. "Yes, I feel that I'm ready to go."

Girardi said that Tanaka will be asked to throw 70-75 pitches against Toronto's lineup.

"I think that's what we've all been waiting to get back to," Girardi said. "He's worked very hard to get back. He's gotten a lot of work done, and we'll see how he holds up."

After the elbow injury, four noted physicians recommended that Tanaka try to rehab the UCL tear rather than undergo Tommy John surgery. It is still possible that Tanaka may eventually require the procedure, but Sunday's outing could offer the Yankees some sense of whether they can count on Tanaka for 2015.

"Even if it's short, if I'm able to go out there and have a strong outing, it'll give me some good confidence," Tanaka said.

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.