Rothschild says Tanaka progressing nicely

February 22nd, 2016

TAMPA, Fla. -- Masahiro Tanaka has said that he is responding well following offseason surgery to remove a bone spur in his pitching elbow, and in an even better sign for the Yankees, he doesn't even think about his partially torn ulnar collateral ligament anymore.
With each successful outing, the team might just allow themselves the same luxury. Tanaka threw 31 pitches from a bullpen mound on Monday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild said the right-hander is doing just fine as he prepares for the season.
"He's where we want him to be," Rothschild said. "So far, there's been no hitches or anything, so we'll just keep progressing, and hopefully it stays that way."
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While he was pleased with how his fastball and secondary pitches felt in the bullpen on Monday, Tanaka said that he wants to proceed methodically this spring and does not feel ready to commit to being ready for Opening Day. 
"Right now, I don't think it's the right time or appropriate time to answer that," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I just want to take it day by day and see where that takes me."
Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda also tossed in the bullpen on Monday morning. Rothschild said that there is no set date to have Tanaka face hitters, as he is expected to be handled somewhat cautiously this spring.  
"He didn't look behind to me," manager Joe Girardi said. "He threw all his pitches today. I felt good about it. He felt good about it, which is probably more important."
Tanaka was 12-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 24 starts for the Yankees last year, and though he isn't yet ready to commit to starting on Opening Day, he has said that he hopes to recapture the form he showed in his first Major League season before sustaining the partially torn ligament.
At the time, four orthopedists recommended rest and rehabilitation, which allowed Tanaka to get back on the mound and avoid losing a year or more to Tommy John surgery. Some feared that Tanaka would eventually blow the ligament out, but Rothschild said that isn't something they can plan around.
"You've got to be aware of what he went through two years ago, but hopefully it is behind us," Rothschild said. "I look at it positively. As long as we keep progressing and keep going, we'll get him ready.
"As far as the elbow thing, last year, he really didn't show any signs of it. That's good, and it's good to get through the innings and all that, so hopefully we're beyond all of that."
Tanaka has said that his objective is to complete 200 innings this year after hurling 136 1/3 in 2014 and 154 last season. He surpassed 200 innings twice for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles during his career in Japan -- in 2011 (226 1/3) and 2013 (212).
"I think it's reasonable," Rothschild said. "I don't think it's a bad goal to have, but we need to break it down into how to get to the 200 innings and what that's going to be throughout the year."