Masahiro Tanaka reportedly is scheduled to meet with a doctor Monday to check on his injured right elbow, and Yankees fans had better hope that the 25-year-old is healing rapidly.

But few fans should be anxious for the team to risk its present-and-future ace by bringing him back too soon, even if the rotation has not performed as well without him.

And make no mistake, the Yankees' starting pitching sans Tanaka collectively has been among the worst in baseball.

Although the Yankees' 3.95 ERA by starting pitchers before yesterday's games ranks 19th even with Tanaka's sterling 2.51 figure factored in, they drop to 24th (4.32) when not accounting for their ace's numbers.

Granted, it isn't helping that CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova pitched poorly before injuries ended their seasons or that Michael Pineda -- advertised as finally healthy -- pitched well but has made just four starts all year due to shoulder issues.

With injuries decimating the rotation, manager Joe Girardi already has been forced to start 11 different pitchers this season.

The team hasn't had more than 10 unique arms as starters since 2008, when 13 men made at least one start.

That team did win 89 games, but it missed the postseason.