OAKLAND, Calif. - The date of Masahiro Tanaka's return to the rotation has been set.
Before Friday night's game against the A's, Joe Girardi said Tanaka, rehabbing a right forearm strain and right wrist tendinitis since being put on the disabled list April 29, will start Wednesday afternoon in Seattle.
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"I talked to him today and wanted to make sure he felt good and he felt he was ready to go," Girardi said. "He felt good about it."
Tanaka, speaking through his translator, echoed his manager.
"My body's feeling good being healthy," he said. "I'm feeling good right now."
Tanaka made his second and final rehab start Wednesday in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, for Triple-A Scranton / Wilkes-Barre. He traveled to the West Coast on Thursday, rejoining the club later that night.
"I want to make the best out of it," Tanaka said. "Just ready to go out there and do my best."
He had a good slider but not much else against the Red Sox Triple-A club Wednesday, throwing 62 pitches and allowing three runs, four hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
"Not hitting my spots when I needed to," said Tanaka, who will be on a pitch count of 80 to 85 against the Mariners. "That part, I think, was a little bit off on that day."
But neither he nor the Yankees cared much about the results. Tanaka has felt healthy each step of the way in his rehab, and Girardi said Thursday that reports from those at Wednesday's game reflected a pitcher whose arm is getting stronger. Girardi said Tanaka's fastball averaged 91.0 mph in Pawtucket and that he peaked at 93.
"His fastball his last big-league start [April 23 in Detroit] was 90.9," Girardi said.
Girardi said he will watch Tanaka carefully but added that it's not as if the Yankees played it fast and loose with him before last season's injury.
"I thought we handled him pretty careful last year," Girardi said. "It's not like we got him to 120 [pitches] all the time. We hardly ever got him over 110."
In 20 starts last season, Tanaka reached 110 pitches five times, topping out at 118.
"But in saying that," Girardi continued, "you do have to handle him somewhat careful because he's coming back from an injury and you have to build him up a little bit. You do have to watch him."
Girardi knows keeping any pitcher healthy is an inexact science. "It's extremely hard to figure out and it's across the board in baseball," he said. "It seems like in the game now, we do more to protect them than we ever have, and it seems like there's more injuries."
Chris Capuano, who started Friday night, is the one getting bumped Wednesday. Girardi would not say if the lefthander will be taken out of the rotation permanently with Tanaka's return, though that is the most likely outcome. "We'll put [Tanaka] in Wednesday," Girardi said. "And then we'll make some decisions."
Notes & quotes: Slade Heathcott, who had a .353/.353/.588 slash line in six games, will be put on the 15-day disabled list with a Grade 2 strain of his right quadriceps and likely will be out for at least a month, Girardi said. Outfielder Ramon Flores was called up from Scranton and was scheduled to arrive late Friday night . . . Girardi said he's not paying any closer attention to top pitching prospect Luis Severino now that he's been promoted to Triple-A because he pays attention to all of the club's minor-leaguers. Still, "the way it usually happens is when somebody goes down, you talk about the guys in Triple-A before you talk about the guys in Double-A," Girardi said. "So he's that much closer now."