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Masahiro Tanaka throws 34-pitch bullpen session, ready for next step

Masahiro Tanaka celebrates as he walks off the

Masahiro Tanaka celebrates as he walks off the field in the eighth inning of a game against the Mets during interleague play on May 14, 2014 at Citi Field. Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

Masahiro Tanaka threw a 34-pitch bullpen session Saturday morning and said he's ready for whatever is next in his ever-lengthening rehab. But time is not on his side.

Tanaka recently had a setback when he experienced what was called "general arm soreness,'' but he apparently is past that. "I feel that it's way stronger than it was, really better,'' he said through an interpreter. "I think the fatigue is gone.''

Both Tanaka, who last pitched July 8 in Cleveland, and Joe Girardi think the righthander must throw a game of some sort before this season is over to determine whether he will need Tommy John surgery to repair the small tear in his right ulnar collateral ligament. The Yankees' medical staff huddled Saturday afternoon to determine what comes next, whether it's a simulated game in New York or something in Tampa.

"[We want to] figure out what the next step is,'' Girardi said. "Is it a simulated game, is it live BP and go from there?''

Both manager and pitcher think there's enough time for that next step and a real game, even with only 22 rather important ones to go.

Said Tanaka, "Hopefully I can get it in before the season is over.''

Betances inches closer to MoDellin Betances had one strikeout in his perfect inning Saturday, giving him 125 strikeouts (in 83 innings) this season. That's five strikeouts shy of Mariano Rivera's club record by a reliever, set in 1072/3 innings in 1996.

"I hadn't really thought about it, to be honest with you," Betances said. "Just to be mentioned around those names, it's an honor for me. Any time you're mentioned in a sentence with Mariano, in any stat, you've got to feel thrilled about that.''

Betances grew up in Brooklyn watching Rivera and now has had a few opportunities to get advice from the former Yankees closer, who might be on hand Sunday for Derek Jeter's day.

"It's special for me,'' Betances said. "Any time I get that from guys I looked up to and some of the greatest -- you're talking about Mo, the greatest closer of all time. When you hear words from him, it's just an encouraging feeling for me, makes me want to work harder and get better every time out.''

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