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Masahiro Tanaka’s hamstrings feeling much better

Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka walks back to

Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka walks back to the dugout at the end of the second inning of an interleague baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park May 15. Credit: AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Masahiro Tanaka said the feeling in his hamstrings is night and day.

The righthander, on the disabled list since June 9 with strains in both hamstrings, did some light running in the outfield before Saturday afternoon’s game.

“It’s absolutely better,” Tanaka said through his translator. “If you look back two weeks ago, there was no way I would be able to move the way that I did today. Compared to two weeks ago, it’s definitely better.”

Tanaka, who threw flat-ground sessions and played long toss Thursday and Friday, will throw a bullpen session Sunday, Aaron Boone said. If all goes well, Tanaka will throw another bullpen session Tuesday or Wednesday and likely will appear in a simulated game on Friday.

“Then we’ll see from there,” Boone said.

At the time of the injury, general manager Brian Cashman gave a rough time frame of one month for a return, something Tanaka said isn’t on his mind.

“No, not yet,” he said. “I think we need to take the steps. I’m getting into the bullpen for the first time, see how that feels.”

Bird watch

Greg Bird continues to struggle, going 0-for-2 with a walk, dropping him into a 7-for-51 skid.

“I feel like he is really close,” Boone said before the game. “I feel like that at-bat quality has been there. He’s impacted some balls but there’s still that number of times where [during] an at-bat, he gets a pitch to impact and [the result is a] fly ball or hard grounder. So it’s like we’re still kind of waiting for him to really take off. I feel like it’s knocking on the door.”

Bird, except for some moments here and there, hasn’t gotten into a rhythm since his season started May 26. He has a .193/.295/.398 slash line, three homers, six doubles and five RBIs in 24 games.

“We’re confident he’s the dude,” Boone said. “Hopefully he starts dude-ing up sooner than later.”

Targeting Happ

There continues to be speculation among rival talent evaluators that the Yankees will go hard after Blue Jays lefthander J.A. Happ before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

“He’s a solid [No.] 3, which they [the Yankees] need,” one opposing team scout said. “Knows the AL East, won’t be overwhelmed by anything.”

Happ, 35, is 9-3 with a 3.56 ERA in 15 starts this season.

Extra bases

The Yankees were held without a home run for only the 15th time this season. They are 7-8 in those games . . . Saturday’s defeat meant a series loss, dropping the Yankees to 16-3-2 in series play since April 19.

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