Masahiro Tanaka tests injured elbow

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Monday may be one of the most important days of the year for the New York Yankees. It is safe to say their playoff chances may be decided after Monday, and it has little to do with their game against the reigning Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer and the American League Central division leading Detroit Tigers.

Early Monday their prized ace Masahiro Tanaka will test out his injured right elbow for the first time since he received the platelet-rich plasma injection on July 14 in hopes that he could avoid Tommy John surgery for a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Tanaka will play catch at Yankee stadium Monday before the Yankees play host to the Tigers.

Rehab to begin

Tanaka has stated that his arm is feeling better, but manager Joe Girardi feels that even if Tanaka's game of catch goes well, he doesn't believe that the Yankees would get him back before September. Assuming Tanaka is well enough to begin rehabbing, he would like need less than a full six-week spring training before returning to action.

Monday will mark the first time Tanaka has picked up a ball since July 8, when he was knocked out of a ball game for the first time in his young but stellar major league career when he allowed five runs, including two home runs in 6 2/3 innings against the Indians in Cleveland.

If all goes well, the Yankees could possibly have both Tanaka and Michael Pineda, who had a great start to the season before he was suspended for 10 days for using pine tar on the ball in a game against the Red Sox at Fenway on April 23 and then suffered a back muscle strain that has kept him on the disabled list since. Pineda has began a rehab assignment and will likely see his workload increase. Yankees pitcher David Phelps left Sunday night's game against Boston early due to an apparent elbow injury. Phelps will be evaluated further this week in New York. 

Still up for grabs

It would be the best possible case for the Yankees to get both Tanaka and Pineda back to do everything that they possibly can to make some kind of push towards the postseason in Derek Jeter's final year. New York is certainly not out of the American League East race that is certainly up for grabs. The Yankees are currently in third place and are five games behind the division leaders, the Baltimore Orioles.

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