by Chad Jennings
Best I could tell from watching on television, Masahiro Tanaka looked every bit like a big league starter facing a minor league lineup tonight.
Making his first rehab start since going on the disabled list late last month, Tanaka cruised through three scoreless innings with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He struck out two, walked none and showed no signs to trouble in either his forearm or his elbow.
The Yankees have not said what’s next for their injured ace, but he will presumably make at least one or two more minor league starts before rejoining the big league rotation.
“I can’t really say right now,” Tanaka told reporters,including Donnie Collins, who passed along a few quotes. “I’ll have to wait and see how it feels tomorrow. Obviously, we get to see our trainer in New York, our manager, coaches and discuss to see what the next step will be.”
All signs were positive through the first step.
Scheduled for three innings or 45 pitches, Tanaka needed 41 pitches to get through three scoreless. He allowed one double and one single but otherwise worked quickly and easily, mixing all of his pitches with a fastball sitting at 91 mph and topping out at 92 on the stadium radar gun.
“I felt pretty good out there,” Tanaka said. “I was able to use all my pitches. I felt pretty good. … Not necessarily different than how I usually go into a game. I was looking to obviously pitch all my pitches with force, and I was able to do that tonight.”
Tanaka’s first pitch came in at 91 mph, and it was lifted for a routine out to center field. His entire outing wouldn’t be quite that easy, but it didn’t get much harder. After the second batter of the game doubled, Tanaka retired the next seven in a row. The first inning took him just 12 pitches, and the second inning required only 10.
It seemed Tanaka would fall far short of 45 pitches at the end of three innings, but after a two-out single in the third, he fell behind 3-0 against former big leaguer Jake Elmore, who had doubled earlier in the game. Tanaka worked to even the count before getting Elmore to fly out to end the inning and end his outing.
Did he feel any pain?
“No,” Tanaka said. “Not at all.”
Check Donnie’s blog postgame for more from the RailRiders clubhouse, including — assuming he talks to reporters, which I’m sure he will — comments from Austin Romine, who was behind the plate for Tanaka.