Yankees manager Joe Girardi insists it's too early to begin planning for a wild-card game because the Yankees still aren't out of the divisional race, but he expressed complete confidence that Masahiro Tanaka will return from a hamstring injury next week in time for a start that would put him on schedule to pitch the wild-card game.

Tanaka was cleared medically to throw a bullpen session, which could occur as soon as Friday. Girardi said one bullpen session should be sufficient. Asked about Tanaka's playoff availability, Girardi said, "I definitely think so. I'll be surprised if he's not available in the near future, and I'm talking about sometime early next week."

Refsnyder gets a start

Rob Refsnyder was among the replacements for five regulars whom Girardi rested Thursday night against White Sox lefthander Chris Sale, but the clamor that accompanied his call-up in July -- a stint in which he hit a two-run homer at Fenway Park but went 2-for-12 -- was notably absent.

It was Refsnyder's first start since being recalled on Sept. 1, and he was looking forward to it because of the presence of close friend Trayce Thompson -- brother of Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson -- who homered in the sixth and walked with the bases loaded in the seventh for the White Sox.

"It's awesome, and it's a great opportunity," Refsnyder said before picking up a single in his first at-bat. "I don't know if Trayce Thompson is playing, but he's a childhood friend."

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"Hopefully we'll both be in the lineup. It would be pretty special because we're really close. It would be kind of cool for sure."

Even though Refsnyder hasn't yet made the impact expected of him, he's grateful for the learning experience. "It's been a really special year," he said, "something I'll always remember."

Girardi said the lineup was dictated more by the schedule. "We're in the midst of playing 30 out of 31 days and playing a doubleheader," he said. "It's a grind and you're trying to keep the guys as productive as you can."