PAWTUCKET, R.I. - In his second rehab start Wednesday, Masahiro Tanaka had a mound of trouble with his footing on a minor-league hill.
Instead of focusing on the crispness of his pitches over his first few batters, Tanaka was trying not to get hurt on the mound at McCoy Stadium, the Triple-A home of the Pawtucket Red Sox.
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Finally, the Yankees' $175- million righthander called out the umpires and his translator. A grounds crew worker appeared with a wheelbarrow and then another one with a rake and a bag of dirt. After a 10-minute delay, Tanaka went back to work.
The good news for Tanaka is that he said his arm felt "absolutely fine" after this three-inning stint. The bad news is he was hit hard and didn't speak confidently about being ready to make his next start for the Yankees instead of Scranton / Wilkes-Barre.
"Obviously, I would have to see how I feel the next day," Tanaka said through his translator. "It's something that I'll talk with the manager, the trainer, coaches and make that decision."
In his first rehab start, Tanaka threw three scoreless innings against Durham. On Wednesday, he allowed three runs and four hits, with two walks and four strikeouts. All four of the hits were smoked.
"Obviously, I wasn't at my best," Tanaka said. "I was missing some spots and giving up some hits."
It started on the first pitch when Red Sox prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. lined a double off the rightfield wall. After a single to left and a walk loaded the bases, Tanaka struck out Bryce Brentz on a splitter.
Tanaka was uncomfortable with the mound during the first four hitters and kept pawing at the dirt. Finally, he asked for a little help so he wouldn't lose his footing and possibly pull a leg muscle.
"A chunk of clay just came off from the mound," Tanaka said. "That's what happened."
After the delay, Tanaka gave up a sacrifice fly and recorded a strikeout on a slider to end the inning.
The PawSox scored a second run in the second inning on a leadoff walk, a long single that one-hopped the rightfield wall and an RBI groundout.
With two outs, Bradley -- who is back in the minors because he hasn't hit enough to stay in the majors -- hammered a 91-mph fastball over the right-centerfield wall.
Tanaka, who threw 62 pitches, retired his last four batters, two by strikeout. His velocity peaked at 92.
"The positive is that I was able to go  pitches strongly," Tanaka said. "Compared to my last outing, I think my slider was better."
Tanaka has been on the disabled list since April 27, four days after his last big-league outing. He said he feels no ill effects from the wrist and forearm issues that sent him to the DL, nor is his troublesome elbow acting up.
"Right now," he said, "I'm absolutely fine."