Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild (l.) and Masahiro Tanaka like the news that comes out of Tampa on Sunday – whic is Tanaka feels fine after throwing off a mound.
TAMPA – Here’s a Valentine’s Day present any Yankee fan would love – Masahiro Tanaka reported no problems with his elbow Sunday, the day after his first session on a mound this spring.
“Good, nice,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Sunday of Tanaka’s effort the previous day. “Didn’t try to push it too much.
“He wasn’t midseason form, but he was where he should be. His arm worked well. It didn’t look like there were any problems and today (Sunday) he felt good, which is more important.”
Tanaka and his valuable right elbow figure to be an ongoing storyline throughout Yankee camp, which begins in earnest this week after pitchers and catchers report Thursday. He had surgery to remove a bone spur from the elbow after last season and pitched last year with a partially-torn ligament in the joint, too.
Tanaka is in Tampa early to get set for camp and threw 20 pitches from a mound Saturday at the Yankees’ main spring home, George M. Steinbrenner Field. Sunday, Tanaka was back at it, playing catch with Rothschild in mid-50s weather while a gentle breeze blew. Overhead, small clouds streaked a mostly-blue sky.
Tanaka did not speak to reporters afterward. In all, he spent about two hours at GMS Field, the only player who was seen coming or going on the final Sunday before camp begins. Pitchers and catchers report Thursday and they have their first official workout on Friday.
Tanaka struggles with arm injuries in 2015.
Rothschild indicated that Tanaka’s present program is pretty standard and that daily workouts such as Sunday’s are part of the progression to get ready for a season. “Absolutely,” the pitching coach said. “That’s where we are now and he’ll build up with everybody else.”
Did Rothschild think Tanaka felt any sense of relief after Saturday’s work?
“I think from him, he kind of expects it,” Rothschild said. “I don’t know – you’d have to talk to him – but it just looked like it was the routine, this is what I’m going to do and until he sees different, he’s going to keep progressing.”
Asked by reporters last week if he’d start Opening Day, Tanaka said through a translator, “Can’t really say. We’ll take it day by day. I feel that I can’t really talk about that at this point. I just want to see myself go into the bullpen, get the innings in and see how I feel.”
The specter of injury always follows Tanaka, whose two seasons in the majors have been marred by physical issues. He’s missed time in each year because of injury, making only a total of 44 starts and throwing 290.1 innings in his big-league career so far.
The 27-year-old missed six weeks last year with forearm and wrist injuries and later missed time because of a hamstring injury. In 2014, he hit the shelf after he was diagnosed with the partially-torn elbow ligament.
Still, he’s been the Yankee ace when he has pitched and their rotation, filled with question marks, needs him to be that again. Tanaka is 25-12 with a 3.16 ERA in those 44 starts and has a career 1.02 WHIP.
We’ll find out soon enough if he can still be that good. Meanwhile, Tanaka will continue to work.
“We’ll keep throwing and probably do another mound (session) not tomorrow, but within the next couple days, and just keep progressing from there,” Rothschild said.
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