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Tanaka pitches 5 scoreless innings in instructional league, could rejoin Yankees this weekend

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TAMPA, Florida — Masahiro Tanaka pitched five scoreless innings against minor leaguers in an instructional league simulated game Monday, perhaps the final step before the injured Japanese pitcher rejoins the New York Yankees.

Tanaka threw 65 pitches at Steinbrenner Field, allowing six hits and striking out four. His fastball reached 92 mph.

"It feels good," Tanaka said through a translator. "I feel all right."

Tanaka has been sidelined since July 9 with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. If the Yankees think he is ready, Tanaka could start against Toronto at Yankee Stadium this weekend during the team's final homestand.

PHOTO: New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, of Japan, warms up in the bullpen before a simulated game Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. Tanaka pitched five scoreless innings against minor leaguers in an instructional league simulated game Monday, perhaps the final step before the injured Japanese pitcher rejoins the New York Yankees. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, of Japan, warms up in the bullpen before a simulated game Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. Tanaka pitched five scoreless innings against minor leaguers in an instructional league simulated game Monday, perhaps the final step before the injured Japanese pitcher rejoins the New York Yankees. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

"It's very possible he could be in a game for us, the next step," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Girardi, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and team vice chair Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal watched Tanaka's outing.

"Obviously, we'll look and see how I feel tomorrow," Tanaka said.

New York agreed in January to pay the Rakuten Golden Eagles $20 million over 18 months for right to Tanaka, then gave the pitcher a $155 million, seven-year contract. He started 11-1 with a 1.99 ERA in his first 14 appearances and is 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 18 starts.

"I thought he was good," Rothschild said. "The last inning he really tested it to make sure that he could throw the way he wanted, and he threw the ball pretty well. We want to see how he feels tomorrow and go from there."

New York began a three-game series against Tampa Bay on Monday night.

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