TAMPA, Fla. - The Yankees couldn't simulate optimal Florida spring conditions Saturday morning for Masahiro Tanaka, but they'll gladly settle for the simulated 29-pitch effort he delivered at Steinbrenner Field.

Working against a pesky wind that blew toward dead center and reduced the temperature to what felt like 51 degrees, Tanaka threw 23 pitches for strikes against catching prospect Gary Sanchez and infielder Cole Figueroa.

In two innings, the pair totaled 10 at-bats, arguably one hit (Tanaka had no defense behind him), no walks and one strikeout -- a called third strike by Yankees pitching coach/umpire Larry Rothschild.

Afterward, Tanaka said through an interpreter that he "absolutely" is ready for a bona fide exhibition outing.

"Everything's the way it should be," said Rothschild, who called balls and strikes from behind the mound. "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 it."

Three days after a 30-pitch bullpen session, Tanaka appeared to throw all of his pitches -- even an occasional breaking ball -- in this session. The fastball, he said through the interpreter, was the most accurate gauge of his progress.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"And I think the fastballs are coming off my hands pretty good right now," Tanaka said.

The only glaring sign of last year's partially torn ulnar collateral ligament: the layers of ice and wrap that shrouded his right arm afterward.

Rothschild said he saw no signs that Tanaka suppressed anything and is confident that he's on track for an actual exhibition game.

"[The elbow] is obviously really good and I really don't think about it at all," Tanaka said.

Exactly when his innings will transition from simulated to authentic remained unclear early Saturday afternoon. A potential target date could be Thursday, when the Yankees host the Braves in a 7:05 p.m. contest.

Yankees videos

Midmorning, Tokyo time.

"I think whenever, wherever they want me to go, I think I'm ready to go into a game," Tanaka said.

Rothschild was a tad more cautious.

"We'll see how he is [Sunday] and the next couple of days,'' he said, "and then judge based on that."