New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka has progressed to live batting practice and will face hitters Saturday, his first exposure to hitters since being diagnosed with a partially torn right elbow ligament.

Manager Joe Girardi said Tanaka, who threw a 25-pitch bullpen session August 16, was able to mix split-finger fastballs and breaking pitches in Wednesday's 35-pitch workout Wednesday.

Last Saturday was the ace's first bullpen session in a month since going on the disabled list. Three different physicians diagnosed the small tear and recommended platelet-rich plasma therapy.

Tanaka has been on the disabled list July 9. The club hopes he can avoid season-ending surgery and return in September.

The Japanese star is 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA over 18 starts in his first season as a major leaguer.

Entering Thursday, the Yankees were five games out of the wild-card race and nine games back in the American League East.

Prior to Thursday's game, the Yankees recalled utility man Zelous Wheeler from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and 0ptioned right-hander Chase Whitley.

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