New York Daily News

Tanaka delivers more progress

- BYMARK FEINSAND

TAMPA — Given the fragile state of Masahiro Tanaka’s right elbow, every bullpen session or batting practice will continue to be watched with great interest.

Tanaka threw a side session Monday morning, continuing his progress toward facing hitters.

“I thought he looked where he’s supposed to be at right now,” Joe Girardi said. “He didn’t look behind to me. He threw all his pitches today. I felt good about it. He felt good about it, which is probably more important.”

“My body is feeling really good right now,” Tanaka said through an interprete­r. “I have to take it day-by-day moving forward.”

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild said he didn’t know when that would happen — or say with certainty that Tanaka would be ready for Opening Day — but everything seems to be on schedule as of now for the 27-year-old.

“So far, no hitches or anything,” Rothschild said. “We’ll just keep progressin­g and hopefully it stays that way.”

Tanaka had a bone spur removed from his right elbow this winter, but the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in the arm was not an issue for the righthande­r last season.

“You’re aware of everything,” Rothschild said when asked if the elbow was still a primary concern. “You have to be aware of the fact of what he went through

two years ago, but hopefully it is behind us. I look at the positives, and as long as we keep progressin­g and keep going, we’ll get him ready.”

Tanaka pitched 154 innings over 22 starts, a number he would like to see swell to 200 this season.

“I think it’s reasonable,” Rothschild said of the innings goal. “I’ve had pitchers in the past where the goal is 200 innings because they feel if they throw 200 innings with their abilities, you’re going to see the numbers where they should be. I don’t think it’s a bad goal to have, but we need to break it down in how to get to 200 innings and what that’s going to mean throughout the year.”

Rothschild seems hopeful that Tanaka will be ready for the first series of the season, though the pitching coach isn’t looking that far ahead. There are other steps that must be taken first.

“I’ve taken the schedule out a little ways, but with guys like him, I’d rather see each progressio­n and not put a timetable on it,” Rothschild said. “We’ll progress him. It’s obviously a real possibilit­y, but until I get down the path a little bit, I’m not going to know that.”

 ?? BUTCH DILL-USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Masahiro Tanaka pitches in with latest promising throwing session.
BUTCH DILL-USA TODAY SPORTS Masahiro Tanaka pitches in with latest promising throwing session.

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