TAMPA, Fla. — No guarantees.
It’s all part of the cautious approach the Yankees are taking with Masahiro Tanaka during spring training.
So even as Larry Rothschild said Monday morning that “nothing is bothering” Tanaka and that “he’s where we want him to be,” the pitching coach refrained from giving any assurances that he will be ready by the start of the regular season.
“I really don’t know right now,” Rothschild said. “I’ve taken the schedule out a little ways, but with guys like him, I’d rather see him each progression and not put a timetable on it. So we’ll progress him. It’s obviously a real possibility [the start of the season], but until I get down the path a little bit, I’m not going to know that.”
Tanaka was similarly noncommittal. “Right now, I just don’t think it’s the right time to answer that,” he said through his translator. “I just want to go ahead and take it day by day and see where that takes me.”
Rothschild watched Tanaka use his entire repertoire Monday during his third bullpen session, which consisted of 31 pitches. “Really good,” Tanaka said in describing the session. “I think the fastballs were coming out of my hand pretty good. I liked how my secondary pitches, how they were breaking. So I’m pretty satisfied with it.”
The 27-year-old Tanaka, who sustained a slight tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in 2014 that did not require surgery, had two stints on the disabled list last season. One was for a right forearm strain and right wrist tendinitis, which cost him about six weeks early in the season. He was sidelined for a short time in September with a right hamstring strain.
Tanaka, who went 12-7 with a 3.51 ERA, had a bone spur removed from his right elbow on Oct. 20. His recovery from the surgery is the reason he’s being brought along at a deliberate pace.
Tanaka pitched all of last season with the spur, which dated to his career in Japan and was something the Yankees were aware of when they made a $175-million investment in January 2014. The spur was asymptomatic until last year, but even then, Tanaka has said it did not affect his performance, nor did he show any distress on the mound.
There was some discomfort, which Tanaka has said might have impacted him and the quality of his work between starts, but he did not mention it to the Yankees until after the season.
“What he went through last year, he could have told us, but he probably wouldn’t have missed a start anyway because it was manageable,” Joe Girardi said. “It [surgery] was going to be done at the end of the season, even if he told us, anyway. Players are nicked up all the time. They don’t tell you about every little nick. We wouldn’t have enough time in the day.”
Girardi said he hasn’t mapped out when Tanaka will take his first turn in the rotation in spring training, but he hasn’t done that with any of his pitchers. With four of his expected starting five experiencing some kind of injury in 2015 — Luis Severino is the exception — each is being brought along slowly.
“Larry and I talked about it a little bit this winter, and I said, ‘Let’s just see where they’re at before we even start trying to map it out,’ ” Girardi said. “We can spend the next 10 hours trying to map this out and it might end up being a complete waste of time. So we’ll just see where they’re at.”