Healthy Tanaka ready for full workload

Yankees righty confident he can pitch without complications this season

Healthy Tanaka ready for full workload

TAMPA, Fla. -- Masahiro Tanaka said that he no longer has any doubts about the health of his right elbow, believing that he can take on a full workload without any further complications.

"I feel it's healed," Tanaka said through an interpreter on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, where Yankees pitchers and catchers officially reported to Spring Training. "I'm confident that I can get through this season."

Tanaka, 26, followed a rehab program after sustaining a partial tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament in July. He returned to make a pair of September starts before traveling home to Japan as a healthy player in the Yanks' eyes.

That's not all that Tanaka has been working on. During his news conference on Friday, Tanaka was asked when his most recent MRI exam took place. Huddling with translator Shingo Horie for support, Tanaka sounded out his response, nearly saying July before Horie provided the correct response.

"October," he said, drawing laughter from the assembled crowd.

Tanaka did answer in English when asked about his next bullpen session, which will take place on Sunday. As for that MRI, Tanaka said that "the doctor just told us that there's no problem at all" and he went through an offseason conditioning program that focused on strengthening his shoulder and elbow.

Tanaka has bullpen session

The Yankees will still watch Tanaka's outings closely, but his confidence is encouraging to the organization. Asked why he believes the elbow has healed, Tanaka replied, "Because I'm able to throw the ball completely fine."

Tanaka threw his first bullpen of the spring on Thursday, tossing 21 pitches from the mound at the team's Minor League complex, a session in which Tanaka said that he uncorked two splitters. He is scheduled to get back on the mound Sunday and is following a schedule that will be similar to last year's.

"It hasn't been any different," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's where he would be pretty much on a normal spring. We've had no stipulations on what he can do and what he can't do."

After going 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in his first big league campaign, Tanaka believes that his growing level of comfort will allow him to have an even better sophomore season.

"I think I kind of know what to expect, the rhythm and flow of things now, just by having the experience of a full season last year," Tanaka said. "Baseball-wise and just everyday-life-wise, I think I'm a little bit more used to it than last year."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.