NEW YORK — Masahiro Tanaka threw 35 pitches Wednesday in his second bullpen session as he tries to return to the New York Yankees this season.
The injured rookie from Japan threw fastballs, breaking balls and five splitters at Yankee Stadium. He said he felt a little rusty, but his elbow is healthy and now it's just a matter of rebuilding arm strength and getting sharp.
"It was a good day," Tanaka said through a translator. "The elbow is fine now. I'm more looking towards playing in a game now. But that said, even that said, I think I do have to be cautious about the elbow."
Tanaka went on the disabled list July 9 with a partial ligament tear in his right elbow and had a platelet-rich plasma injection. New York hopes he can avoid Tommy John surgery and return to the rotation next month.
The right-hander threw 25 pitches in his first bullpen session last Saturday and might have another one before moving on to batting practice. After that, it would be a simulated game and then a rehab game. No more MRIs are planned.
"So far, so good. I mean, every step has been positive for him and that's obviously the way we hope it continues to go. But each step, he increases intensity, and I'm sure BPs will be a little bit more intense than bullpens," manager Joe Girardi said. "The fact that he felt good today was encouraging. See how he feels tomorrow, obviously, is really important, but he was able to throw his curveball, his slider and his split, and I watched it and it looked pretty good."
Tanaka is 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 18 starts. New York began the day four games out of a playoff spot with 39 to play.
In other news, slumping Carlos Beltran was out of the lineup against Houston because of discomfort in his troublesome right elbow, which has bothered him for much of the season.
Beltran was scheduled to be examined by a doctor Wednesday evening.
"I'm not really sure what it means. Hopefully, it's just a day or two," Girardi said.
Derek Jeter was the designated hitter instead of Beltran, with Stephen Drew set to start at shortstop.