ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Masahiro Tanaka's first season in the big leagues couldn't have started much better. He won his first start and the praise rarely let up from there. The righthander did not lose a game until his ninth start, May 20 against the Cubs in Chicago.
That, of course, has not been the case this season. Tanaka, besieged by questions about his right elbow throughout spring training, is 1-1 with a 7.00 ERA entering his third start Saturday night.
"You always have ups and downs when you go through a season," Tanaka said Friday through his translator. "I think what matters the most is how you go about your business when things aren't going your way. Right now might not be the best time for me, but I'm trying to make that better."
There have been positive signs, such as 10 strikeouts in nine innings, but opposing scouts believe he has been holding back on his four-seam fastball to lessen the strain on the elbow. He says that is not the case. "Just still trying to build that arm strength to get where I want to be," he said. "I was building arm strength around the same time last year as well."
Brett Gardner's sore right wrist wasn't improved enough to get him into the lineup, but he did talk Joe Girardi into letting him take batting practice in the cage and then on the field. Gardner hopes to be back Saturday night . . . Ivan Nova (elbow) reported no issues after a second live batting practice session Friday. He expects to throw two more BP sessions next week before possibly progressing to a simulated game. A return to the rotation isn't likely until late May at the earliest . . . Andrew Bailey said he's scheduled to pitch for Class A Tampa on Saturday and Monday, getting him closer to appearing in back-to-back games. That's the final hurdle to being big league-ready, the Yankees have said . . . Chris Capuano (quadriceps) is slated to throw live BP on Sunday.