Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka took one step closer to rejoining the major league team before the end of the season when he pitched in an instructional league game at the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa. He threw five innings to Yankees minor league players, allowing six hits and collecting four strikeouts on 65 pitches. Despite giving up no runs, he didn't really have anything close to his best stuff against 18-year-old players.
Tanaka talked to the media and said that he felt perfectly healthy, but the problem was that he felt rusty. It still might be some time before we see him in a major league game again:
Tanaka seemed to be saying "yeah, physically, i can pitch in the majors next, but i dont know how sharp im going to be." (My interpretation)— Daniel Barbarisi (@DanBarbarisi) September 15, 2014
The biggest concern for me is that he topped out at 92 mph, which is far from his in-season 95 mph mark. Of course, this might all just be rust since Tanaka hasn't pitched regularly in months. From being handled with care, and then feeling sore in his arm, the Yankees haven't allowed the right-hander to pitch all that much. Anyone expecting him to go out there and throw a perfect game must be very disappointing, but the real takeaway is that he physically made it through the day without destroying his arm. We can't judge any of this, even the velocity, until he throws again. From here the next step would be for the Yankees to see how he feels tomorrow and where exactly he will pitch next time around.