CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Stating his intention to be ready for Opening Day, right-hander Masahiro Tanaka passed his first test of the spring on Sunday afternoon, throwing two scoreless innings and striking out a pair in a 6-5 Grapefruit League loss to the Phillies.
The outing was Tanaka's first since undergoing surgery in October, which removed a bone spur from his pitching elbow. Yankees manager Joe Girardi strongly suggested Sunday that, if healthy, Tanaka will serve as his Opening Day starter for the second straight year.
"I've said all along, I feel pretty good about where he's at," Girardi said. "We'll just take it start by start to make sure he feels good, but I liked what I saw today."
Tanaka permitted two hits with a walk in the 31-pitch outing at Bright House Field, firing 20 strikes. The Yanks' schedule appears to line Tanaka up to start the April 4 opener against the Astros, with one extra day of rest between each spring start.
"Yeah, that's basically the goal," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "That's what I'm trying to do."
Tanaka was especially efficient in the first inning, as the right-hander needed just eight pitches to set the Phillies down in order, but he missed some spots in the second inning, allowing singles to Maikel Franco and Brock Stassi.
Neophyte third baseman Rob Refsnyder bailed Tanaka out of the jam, turning a nifty double play on a sharp Carlos Ruiz grounder. Tanaka applauded the effort.
"That was huge. He got a good part of the bat," Tanaka said. "There was some velocity on the ball. I thought it was huge that Ref made that play for us."
Tanaka then issued a free pass before completing his debut with a strikeout of David Lough, Tanaka's second of the afternoon. Tanaka said that he got his strikeouts on a splitter and a slider.
"[I was] getting some runners on base, missing my spots here and there," Tanaka said. "I think that was kind of some of the not good parts about today. I think as we go deeper into more games, that should become better."
Tanaka, 27, was 12-7 with a 3.51 ERA and an American League-leading 0.99 WHIP in 24 starts last season. He did not reveal the bone spur until after the Yankees' season ended in the American League Wild Card Game, in which Tanaka started and took the loss.
"I think any time a guy comes off an injury, even though we thought that he would be ready, it's good to see him out there," Girardi said. "It just makes you feel better about the situation."
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.