BALTIMORE - Masahiro Tanaka is closing in on the next significant step of his rehab -- a bullpen session.

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild said before Wednesday night's game that step won't be Thursday or Friday, but "it will be in the next few days if he keep progressing."

Tanaka threw to Rothschild Wednesday in the outfield, first at 60, 90 and 120 feet before squatting in a catcher's stance and taking 10 flat-ground throws, the first time the pitcher has done that in his rehab.

"So far, so good," Rothschild said. "There's been no setbacks or anything. I think every day is significant that he doesn't have any problems."

Tanaka, 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 18 starts before being put on the disabled list July 9 with a slight tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament, seemed upbeat after the flat ground in which he threw only fastballs.

"No pain at all," the 25-year-old said through his translator. "I feel good because everything is progressing in the way that I want it to."

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Does he think he'll pitch again this season? "I think I have a chance if everything progresses the way I want and we want," Tanaka said.

Joe Girardi didn't downplay the possibility. "We wouldn't be going through this if we didn't expect him to pitch for us," Girardi said. "Our hope is he'll pitch in September."

 

McCann back soon

Girardi said he expects Brian McCann to be ready to play Saturday, the day the catcher is eligible to come off the seven-day concussion DL. "He feels good so he'll be back when we can take him back," Girardi said.

McCann hit the last two days, with tests performed Tuesday, Girardi said, showed him to be symptom free.

 

Kuroda to start Sunday

Tuesday the Yankees announced a rotation for this weekend's series against the Rays that didn't have Hiroki Kuroda in it, but said Wednesday the 39-year-old righthander will not be skipped, naming him to start Sunday instead of Chris Capuano. Brandon McCarthy will start Friday, followed by Shane Greene Saturday. It gives Kuroda six days of rest between starts, something the Yankees would like to do more of in the final six weeks of the season. Kuroda has tired down the stretch the last two seasons.