ST. PETERSBURG -- Masahiro Tanaka threw 25 fastballs off a bullpen mound on Saturday morning at Tropicana Field, reporting no discomfort, and the Yankees right-hander is eager to begin snapping off breaking pitches in his next session.
"I think we're heading in the right direction, so I feel good about that," Tanaka said through an interpreter.
Tanaka is trying to avoid surgery to repair a partial tear in his right ulnar collateral ligament. Tanaka said that regardless of the Yankees' position in the standings, he would want to come back and make a handful of September starts to gauge his progress.
"I think it's important for the team to fight until the end of the season, so for me, if it would be possible, I'd like to contribute until the end of the season," Tanaka said.
The Yankees are on board with that idea. Looking ahead to 2015, there is a great deal of uncertainty in their starting rotation, and it would be useful to know if Tanaka can realistically be counted upon.
"I think it's important that we know that he's healthy, and I think the only way you're going to find out is if you get him in games," manager Joe Girardi said.
Tanaka will travel with the team after Sunday's series finale, continuing his rehab in New York. He has been an observer for the Yankees' recent skid.
"Everybody's doing their best to try to get a W, obviously," Tanaka said. "So if I get a chance to come back, I'll be on the same page with everybody else."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.