New York Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka throws a pitch during the...

New York Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka throws a pitch during the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

TAMPA, Fla. — The reality is that Masahiro Tanaka probably will never fully escape questions about his right elbow.

After he suffered a slight tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in 2014, the decision not to have surgery — three of the top orthopedic surgeons in the country recommended that he avoid it — has had people asking about the elbow ever since.

Add the bone spur Tanaka had removed from the elbow last October and you have, while not quite a daily deluge of inquiries, at least once-a-week ones.

But there’s also this reality: Through bullpen sessions, live batting-practice sessions and two exhibition starts, there has been no evidence that his elbow was operated on five months ago.

“He’s been on schedule, we’ve kept him on schedule, there’s been no issues,” said manager Joe Girardi, who, while not saying it outright, has indicated that Tanaka will be his Opening Day starter April 4. “I don’t think you would know that.”

In a 7-1 victory over the Orioles at Steinbrenner Field on Friday, Tanaka struck out three and allowed one hit in three scoreless innings. He threw two scoreless innings in his first start last Sunday against the Phillies.

“It looks like he’s getting good extension on his pitches,” catcher Brian McCann said. “No, I wouldn’t be able to tell [he had surgery in October] if I didn’t know.”

Though the Yankees said at the onset of camp that Tanaka would be brought along at a slower pace, he said that at this point, “I’m exactly where I was in the past two spring trainings.”

Tanaka felt his mechanics were a bit “off” Friday, though McCann didn’t see it. “I thought he commanded everything, both sides of the plate,” he said. “I really liked his fastball command today.”

Scouts in the seats had Tanaka’s fastball sitting at 87-88 mph, peaking at 91. His curveball was in the 72-74 range and the splitter, the pitch he’s best known for, sat at 81-84.

“His best pitch today was the splitter,” one opposing team scout said. “Tough pitch down in the zone. His fastball looks flat, especially in the [strike] zone.”

Tanaka has not made any guarantees about being ready for Opening Day and didn’t Friday. Still, he left no doubt how he feels.

“I’m happy with where I’m at,” he said. “I felt the first outing went well, I’m pretty satisfied with this outing. We have a couple more left, but I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now.”

There are health questions throughout the rotation, Tanaka included, but McCann has liked what he’s seen as each starter has taken at least one turn.

“I love our rotation,” he said. “I think we’re throwing out a quality arm every single night. I think the upside’s huge for our rotation.”

Notes & quotes: Chase Headley, who committed a career-worst 23 errors last season, has been working nearly every day with third-base coach/infield coach Joe Espada on one of the back fields at Steinbrenner Field. “We talked about it this offseason. We are focusing on footwork,” Espada said. “He is getting better.” . . . Chasen Shreve, one of the best relievers in baseball the first five months of last season before fading in September, threw a perfect 1 1⁄3 innings Friday and has not allowed a baserunner in three appearances . . . The Orioles dropped to 0-10-2 . . . Retired Yankees captain Derek Jeter will be part of Major League Baseball’s delegation in Havana for the Rays’ exhibition game against Cuba’s national team on March 22.

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