Tanaka feels good after Monday's scheduled throwing session
Tanaka felt no pain throwing and remains cautiously optimistic that the outing was step one in a return to form, but that cautious optimism was also met with a reminder that this was still step one.
"I thought it went well, and obviously I'm relieved, but today was the first day of throwing, so I can't look too far ahead just yet," he said, this time through interpreter Shingo Horie.
The session was Tanaka's first activity since having a platelet-rich injection in his right elbow three weeks ago, an injection that came five days after he was diagnosed with a partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament - a diagnosis that prompted the right-hander to issue a statement apologizing for not being able to help the team.
Hoping to get him back this season, the Yankees opted for rest, the injection and rehab instead of season-ending Tommy John surgery for Tanaka, and while Monday's outing of course sparks hope that a 2014 return is in play, the team's skipper also quickly tempered those expectations.
"It's way too early to see; right now it's basically catch, and he'll do it again tomorrow and we'll increase the intensity and distance as we go along," Joe Girardi said, "but I think you have to wait to get him on the mound to have a good idea (where he stands regarding a return)."
Still, as Tanaka said and Girardi reiterated, today was a positive step.
"Obviously it's positive that he didn't feel anything today; you look at is as a start really, and if there was discomfort that would be discouraging, but it's a positive day," the skipper said. "There's still a long ways to go, and you have to plow through each step really."
Given Tanaka's prideful nature, the team's large investment in him, and the fact that the Yankees are in the thick of a playoff race, it would be easy to take Monday as a sign that the team (or even Tanaka himself) could ramp up the rehab process before the righty is ready - but the skipper didn't see that as a possibility, either.
"He knows what he needs to do, and we've made it very clear what each day entails. I didn't see him come out today and try to do too much, so I think he understands what he's going through…but we'll pay attention to him."