Positive reviews on Masahiro Tanaka’s return

It would be fair to say that Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild is cautiously optimistic after Masahiro Tanaka threw 5 1/3 innings of one-run, five-hit ball against the Blue Jays this afternoon, making his first appearance on a big league mound since July 8.

The Yankees will keep their fingers crossed that Tanaka doesn’t report any discomfort tomorrow or on Saturday, when he’s scheduled to start against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. As of right now, this was a very encouraging sign for what Tanaka could mean for a 2015 rotation that just doesn’t have a whole lot of certainty right now.

“He mixed his pitches well and just went after people the way that you’re used to seeing him do,” Rothschild said. “It just tells you what kind of competitor he is, to be able to come out today and do what he did.”

On what Rothschild liked best:
“Just his presence. It didn’t bother him that he hadn’t been out there in a while. He has complete confidence in what he’s doing and then everything else follows suit, the command of the pitches, the ability to dissect the hitter when he needs to. He has a great feel for when to make pitches and what pitches to make at the right time.”

On Tanaka’s command:
“He made good pitches early in counts. The first inning, the fastball was a little sprayed, they were in the zone but not where he wanted them. After he settled down, he made some really good pitches.”

On this start offering peace of mind:
“It’s a step in the right direction. Are we going to know fully until five years down the road? Probably not. It tells you that due diligence as far as the games and everything, it’s good to see that he comes through and has nothing afterwards. There’s a lot of pitchers in baseball that have probably similar things that are asymptomatic. It’s possible that he can get through this for quite a while. It’s possible that it comes up and bites him and that’s it. We’re hopeful that it’s the earlier scenario and he’s going to be fine and have a nice long career with no problems.”

On if Tanaka needs another MRI:
“Absolutely not. I think you start analyzing every little bit, it doesn’t do any good. If he’s going to be OK, he’ll be OK. If not, we’ll know and he’s going to feel it and we’ll go from there.”

On when Tanaka looked right:
“His warmups were really good. The sim games, the last one, the warmups were OK. Today there was a difference and you could see it right away in the force with which he threw the ball and the quickness to his arm, all of the things that you saw before he went on the DL. Warming up today, you could see it.”

On adrenaline fueling this start:
“I think a lot of it. I think also the sim games he kind of paced himself just to stick his toe in the water and see what it’s going to be like. As he felt that it was going to be OK he pushed it a little bit more. You could see the last inning of the last sim game, he pushed the envelope a lot. He had no problem with that. Today he just continued that.”

On if Tanaka compared to earlier this season:
“Yeah, it was very similar. It’s hard to tell if he was rusty at all, really. He has a really good way of composing himself and handling situations. Just like he did the first game of the year where he gave up the home run in the first inning and went about his business the rest of the day and wound up pitching well.”

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