Tanaka pitches three scoreless in rehab start

After Monday's pain-free session, Yanks ace throws 25 of 41 pitches for strikes

Tanaka pitches three scoreless in rehab start

MOOSIC, Pa. -- Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka took a huge step toward a return to a Major League mound on Thursday night with a successful rehab start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Tanaka threw 41 pitches, 25 for strikes, over three shutout innings against the Durham Bulls in his first game action since landing on the disabled list on April 29 with tendinitis in his right wrist and a strained right forearm.

He showcased all four pitches in his arsenal while working quickly and efficiently; he struck out two batters and allowed two hits while sitting between 89 mph and 91 mph and touching as high as 92 on the stadium radar gun.

"I felt pretty good out there," said Tanaka. "I was able to use all of my pitches, and I felt good. I feel confident in all of the pitches that I threw."

Tanaka threw 12 pitches in the first inning, during which he surrendered a well-struck double to the base of the right-field wall; all three outs he recorded in the opening frame came on hard-hit balls.

"I didn't approach this game any different than a normal game," he said. "I was looking to throw all of my pitches with force, and I think that I did that tonight."

It took Tanaka just 10 pitches to retire the side in the second inning. He threw 19 in the third, when he picked up two strikeouts -- one while throwing his splitter, the other on his slider.

Tanaka, in the second season of a seven-year, $155 million pact, went 2-1 with a 3.22 ERA over four starts before being struck by the injury bug last month. He last pitched in Detroit on April 23, when he tossed 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a no-decision.

The Yankees' concern has been whether Tanaka's latest injuries are a direct result of the torn elbow ligament that cut his stellar rookie season short after he went 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA before being shut down in July.

Tanaka felt "absolutely no pain" in the injured area after exiting Thursday's game.

The Yankees' plan for Tanaka moving forward is unclear, but based on pitch count and inning limits, it is fair to expect that he has two or three more rehab starts on the horizon before he can return to the big leagues.

"I can't really say for now," Tanaka said. "I have to see how I feel tomorrow. Obviously, our trainers back in New York, along with my managers and coaches, will determine what my next step will be."

Matt Kardos is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.