The video above is from this morning’s live batting practice — felt more like a sim game — when Masahiro Tanaka threw 35 pitches to Brendan Ryan and Zelous Wheeler. He threw 20 pitches announcing what’s coming, then sat for a while, then threw another 15. He was mixing all of his pitches, including splitfingers that Wheeler said looked exactly like what he saw when facing Tanaka during spring training.
“I thought it was a good progression,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “As long as he’s healthy, his stuff’s in the right direction, being able to throw 35 pitches and do full warmups and everything. We’ll see how he comes in tomorrow, but he feels good afterwards so that’s a good sign.”
Seems telling that when Tanaka talked about the session, he made no real mention of his elbow. He talked all about his stuff — whether he was hitting his spots, how he felt about his breaking balls. It’s pretty clear that Tanaka feels healthy, and at this point he’s simply getting ready to pitch in a game again.
“I’m not saving anything when I throw each pitch,” he said.
Tanaka said he wasn’t hitting his spots quite like he’s used to, and his offspeed stuff was a bit rusty, but he feels healthy. He said he’ll pay attention to his elbow, and he’ll naturally think about it, but he’s letting his pitches go without holding back.
“I thought (his strength and stamina) was good for the time off he’s had,” Rothschild said. “Overall I thought it was pretty good. It wasn’t where it was before he got hurt, but I didn’t expect it to be. This is another step in the progression so we’ll just keep going with it.”
The Yankees have not announced a timetable for Tanaka’s return, and they’re even vague on what the next step would be.
“He’s going to have to make some rehab starts (eventually),” Joe Girardi said. “I’m not exactly sure how we’re going to be able to do it as we build him up because you’re going to run out of minor league season, but we’ll be creative enough to do whatever we have to do to get him ready.”
• Carlos Beltran is back in the lineup after missing three days because of a cortisone shot in his sore elbow. Beltran hit tee and toss yesterday, and Girardi said the results were so encouraging he considered pinch hitting Beltran last night. So the team feels pretty secure in thinking he’ll be able to play today.
• Three straight left-handed hitters at the top of the lineup? “Gardy is a guy who really works the count and Jake’s on and has a chance to do some things,” Girardi said. “They sent their left-handed reliever out, so I don’t have to worry about stacking lefties today.”
• Derek Jeter out of the lineup for a day game after a night game. “Just a day off,” Girardi said.
• What’s next for Tanaka? “We’ll talk about it, what we think the next step is,” Girardi said. “If it’s more of a BP session, another BP session or treat it more like a simulated game. Big thing is we’ll see how he feels tomorrow and then we’ll make a decision.”
• Any chance of asking Tanaka to throw fewer splitfingers when he comes back in an effort to save the elbow? “He’s got to pitch the way he’s going to pitch,” Girardi said. “if you’re going to really try to change everything, you’re not going to get the same guy. Let’s just see what we have as we move forward.”
• The number 6 is painted into foul territory as the Yankees prepare to honor Joe Torre with a pregame ceremony. “Joe’s demeanor was always the same during the course of a game, during good times, bad times,” Girardi said. “That’s my personality normally, but I saw the importance of it from Joe, that your mood doesn’t change as long as the effort is good every day. I’ve often talked about Joe’s ability to make people believe that everything was going to be OK all the time, no matter what we were going through and we went through a lot in the years that he was here, on and off the field and those are the things I tried to take the most from Joe.”
Associated Press photo