Masahiro Tanaka throws simulated game, next step could be Grapefruit League debut

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Whether Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow will hold up this season is anyone’s guess, but so far the news is positive out of Yankees camp.

According to Chad Jennings of the Journal News, Tanaka threw two innings today in a simulated game while facing Yankees prospects Cole Figueroa and Gary Sanchez. Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild was impressed with the outing and said that he’s “exactly where you want him to be at this point in spring training.” While nothing is official, he appears on track to make his Grapefruit League debut next Thursday.

“It’s good to see him get out there and be able to go through all his pitches and have a good day of work and feel good after,” Rothschild said. “If things progress the way they are, I’m very confident he’ll be ready (by Opening Day).”

Tanaka was diagnosed with a partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow last July, but he opted for rehab over Tommy John surgery and made two starts down the stretch. He’s altering his mechanics to protect the elbow, but the Yankees will have to cross their fingers that he can stay healthy. It’s hard to imagine them contending without him.

Tanaka, 26, had a 2.77 ERA with a 141/21 K/BB ratio over 136 1/3 innings in his first season with the Yankees.