MLB Team Report - New York Yankees - INSIDE PITCH

DETROIT -- It was a gamble then and it remains a gamble whether right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will be able to return and help the New York Yankees down the stretch of an injury-speckled season.

Tanaka threw a 49-pitch simulated game prior to Thursday's real game between New York and host Detroit.

It went well, if you listen to the batter he faced, infielder Brendan Ryan.

It didn't go so well, listening to a translated assessment from Tanaka.

The pitcher was placed on the disabled list July 9, diagnosed with a partial elbow ligament tear. The Yankees and Tanaka decided to try rest and rehabilitation over season-ending Tommy John surgery, a decision that could be a "whew" if it works and a big "oops" if surgery becomes necessary anyway because it would sideline the rookie star Japanese pitcher for a calendar year.

"Right now, I'm just trying to get back," Tanaka said. "It feels like it (his stuff) wasn't there. But there was no pain."

Ryan hit from both sides of the plate as Tanaka got his innings and pitches in.

"He threw some really good sliders," Ryan said. "His splitter was moving. His control will be better as he comes along.

"He could go out and get outs right now just on his stuff alone."

Manager Joe Girardi is careful to keep expectations for Tanaka on the low side. He wants to see his right-hander build up to the point where he can throw 75-90 pitches without complaint, either on the day he pitches or thereafter. That will probably take two more sessions.

New York has survived the loss of four of the five starters it opened the season with and is still on the fringes of making it to the one-game postseason knockout game or better.

Having Tanaka available to help would definitely enhance the Yankees' chances.

"I can't be concerned about the future," Tanaka said. "I've got to take it day by day."

So do the Yankees. Like Tanaka, they will do so with their fingers crossed.


MLB Team Report - New York Yankees - NOTES, QUOTES

RECORD: 69-63

STREAK: Lost one