TAMPA, Fla. -- The last time Masahiro Tanaka pitched in a game situation was the American League Wild Card Game against the Astros, and the Yankees' right-hander carried those innings with him well into the offseason.
"What I remember is, I felt responsible for the loss," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I know we were going against a good pitcher in Dallas Keuchel. If I had been able to give a better performance, then maybe the outcome would have been different."
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Soon after the loss, Tanaka underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow. He said that he feels better than he did a year ago, and the Yankees will get a chance to evaluate how the resulting product looks on Sunday, when the right-hander takes the mound against the Phillies at 1:05 p.m. ET on MLB.TV.
The 27-year-old is scheduled to throw two innings and about 35 pitches in Clearwater, Fla., marking his first Grapefruit League appearance of the spring. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he will be watching closely to see how Tanaka commands the strike zone.
"That's the big thing," Girardi said. "You know, the first couple of times with your starters, you just hope that they come out feeling good. You want them to feel good about themselves, but physically feel good. I think it's probably the most important thing."
Tanaka was 12-7 with a 3.51 ERA and an 0.99 WHIP in 24 starts for New York last season. He said that he was frustrated by not throwing enough innings in 2015 (154). He also threw just five innings in the AL Wild Card Game, allowing two runs on four hits in a game the Yankees lost, 3-0.
"The goal is to go 200 innings, and I think that the important part is to be healthy enough to pitch throughout the season," Tanaka said.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.