TAMPA — Masahiro Tanaka probably will throw his first bullpen session of the year on Thursday at the New York Yankees’ minor league complex.
Tanaka missed 2½ months last year while rehabilitating a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, managed to avoid surgery and returned for two late-September starts. The right-hander threw for 34 minutes on level ground Tuesday, a day after arriving from Japan ahead of the opening spring training workout this weekend.
“Just pretty much what I expected to see,” Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Wednesday. “No problems. Right now everything is where it should be.”
Signed to a $155 million, seven-year contract, Tanaka went 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts last year.
“We’ll bring him along as his arm will dictate,” Rothschild said. “I’m not going to push it. As things crop up, if we need to deal with them we will. Right now, I’m just looking at him as a guy that we’re going to bring along according to how his arm will allow us. I’m approaching it that he’s a healthy pitcher that we just need to be aware of what the history is there.”
Tanaka and the other Yankees rotation members could be getting extra days off during the regular season.
“I think we have 30 games in 31 days from April into May,” Rothschild said. We’re going to have to examine if we’re going to use a sixth starter during some of those stretches, but not necessarily to have a six-man rotation.”