Tanaka proving elbow issues thing of past

March 11th, 2016

TAMPA, Fla. -- The most encouraging sign about Masahiro Tanaka's surgically-repaired right elbow, with five scoreless Grapefruit League innings now in the books, is that the Yankees can hardly tell that there was ever an issue at all.

Tanaka looked sharp as he limited the Orioles to an infield single in Friday's 7-1 victory at George M. Steinbrenner Field, striking out three. If Brian McCann wasn't aware that Tanaka had surgery to remove a bone spur last October, he would have never guessed it.

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"He looks like he's getting good extension on his pitches," McCann said. "He's able to go glove side, which is probably the hardest thing to get extended on. He's doing it fine. I wouldn't even be able to tell if I didn't know."

Tanaka threw 30 of 40 pitches for strikes, hitting a batter but otherwise making a clean tuneup as he continues to eye his second consecutive Opening Day assignment. Tanaka said that he felt slightly off balance, but McCann and Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn't see it. Girardi remarked that Tanaka threw some good curveballs in particular.

"I feel that I'm exactly where I need to be at," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "If I compare with my first year and my second year right around this time, I think I'm exactly where I was in the previous two Spring Trainings."

Upon reporting to camp last month, Tanaka expressed some hesitation about being ready to take the ball on April 4 against the Astros, but that seems to have dissipated as he continues to hit his post-surgery checkpoints.

"He's in total control of what he's doing, and I just go off of him," McCann said. "He's throwing the ball great, he's moving around great. He doesn't seem to have any problems. I think he feels really good."

Though Tanaka said that the topic of Opening Day has not yet been discussed with Girardi or pitching coach Larry Rothschild, he said that he is trying to be ready for anything. The schedule lines Tanaka up to start the opener with one extra day of rest between each spring start.

"I'm happy with where I'm at," Tanaka said. "I felt that the first outing went well. I think I'm pretty satisfied with [Friday's] outing as well. We have a couple more left, but I'm pretty happy with where I'm at right now."