Blue Jays-Yankees Preview

Masahiro Tanaka is returning to the mound for a test run with the New York Yankees.

He’ll start for the first time since July 8 on Sunday in the finale of a four-game home series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Tanaka (12-4, 2.51 ERA) has been out for 2 1/2 months because of a partial tear in his right elbow. The Yankees want him to pitch twice before the season ends to determine if he can avoid Tommy John surgery, which would sideline him for 2015.

The Japanese ace believes his elbow is strong enough to avoid surgery.

”I think so, if I’m able to go out there and have a strong outing,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. ”I feel it would give some good confidence.”

Tanaka, who will be limited to between 70 to 75 pitches, is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts against Toronto.

“The big thing is that he gets out of this healthy for us, I mean that’s the big thing,” manager Joe Girardi said. “And that he feels good about it and that he feels good about making another start. For me, that’s the most important thing but it might give us a decent idea of what we’re gonna have next year.”

Tanaka went 5-0 with a 1.86 ERA in his first seven outings in the Bronx before going 0-2 with a 2.81 ERA in his next two. He has held Jose Bautista hitless in six at-bats while Edwin Encarnacion is 3 for 5 against him with a double.

The Yankees will be without center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who strained his right hamstring in Friday’s 5-3 win and could be out for the season’s last week.

”Obviously we will give him a few days off and see where he’s at,” Girardi said. “It’s not what you want but we have to deal with it.”

New York (79-75) had its three-game win streak snapped with a 6-3 loss Saturday.

Bautista homered, reached base all five times and matched a career high by scoring four runs. He has gone deep eight times against the Yankees, with seven in the last nine meetings.

”I think it’s a good performance that obviously helps in meaningful games in September,” Bautista said.

Toronto (78-76) played without slugger Adam Lind, who is having back problems. John Mayberry Jr. went 0 for 3 with a sacrifice fly in his place.

The Blue Jays have won three of their last five at Yankee Stadium after losing 17 straight there.

New York’s Brett Gardner ended a career-worst 0-for-27 slump with two hits Saturday.

Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison (10-12, 4.51) is on the upswing against the Yankees heading into his sixth and final 2014 outing versus them. He went 0-3 with a 9.22 ERA in the first three before going 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA in the next two.

The right-hander gave up six runs in 6 1-3 innings in Tuesday’s 8-2 defeat at Baltimore.

His presence figures to be a boost for Derek Jeter, playing his final weekend home game. Jeter is 6 for 14 off Hutchison this year and 7 for 17 overall after an 0-for-28 skid.

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