Tanaka feels ready to start after simulated game

Right-hander throws 29 pitches in Tampa under Rothschild's watchful eye

Tanaka feels ready to start after simulated game

TAMPA, Fla. -- Masahiro Tanaka threw 29 pitches in a simulated game on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field and said that he feels ready to begin pitching in Grapefruit League games.

With pitching coach Larry Rothschild standing behind the mound, Tanaka faced nine batters over a session that was broken down into two innings. He permitted a single and struck out one.

"Whenever, wherever they want me to go, I think I'm ready to go into a game," Tanaka said through an interpreter.

The Yankees have been watching Tanaka closely this spring, searching for indications that he is favoring his right elbow following a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament last July. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild said that he has seen no such signs.

"He's exactly where you want him to be at this point in Spring Training," Rothschild said.

Tanaka has repeatedly said that he no longer thinks about the injury, and he appeared to be sharp while throwing to Yanks hitters Cole Figueroa and Gary Sanchez on a cool, overcast morning, with Eddy Rodriguez doing the catching. The lone "hit" was a grounder up the middle by Figueroa, the only well-struck ball off Tanaka.

"The fastballs are coming off my hand pretty good right now," Tanaka said. "I do look at the split, how it moves and all that, but I actually look at my fastball the most when I'm pitching."

Rothschild said that the Yankees will wait to see how Tanaka feels on Sunday before scheduling his next outing. It is possible that Tanaka could make his first exhibition start within the week, which Rothschild said should give Tanaka enough time to be ready for Opening Day.

"If things progress the way they are, I'm very confident he'll be ready," Rothschild said. "It's good to see him get out there and be able to go through all his pitches and have a good day of work and feel good after."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.