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Optimistic Masahiro Tanaka hoping to pitch 200 innings

New York Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka works out during

New York Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka works out during the first day of spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, on Feb. 18, 2016 Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

TAMPA, Fla. — Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka, returning from offseason surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow, said Thursday that he’s confident that he can be a healthier and better pitcher in 2016.

“I think I was able to clear out some stuff out of there, so I feel it’s better this year compared to last year,” Tanaka said through a translator at Steinbrenner Field. “Going into this season, I wanted to be as healthy and as effective as possible. That is why I elected to take the bone spur out.”

Tanaka, 27, was limited to 136 and 154 innings, respectively, in his first two years with the Yankees because of a variety of physical issues, but his goal is to throw 200 innings this season. He knows he’ll need to stay off the disabled list to accomplish that.

“The important part is to be healthy enough to pitch throughout the season,” he said. “As far as my conditioning goes, I think I’m at a pretty good place. I’m right where I want to be.”

Tanaka, who threw off a mound for the first time in Sunday’s bullpen session, had a 2.77 ERA in his first season with the Yankees and saw that rise to 3.51 last year. He said the improvement in his elbow should allow him to get back to the All-Star level he showed in his debut season in New York.

“I feel confident that I can match that time,” he said.

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