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Tanaka happy with first tosses since injury

NEW YORK -- New York Yankees star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka made his first throws Monday since being injured last month and was optimistic after the session he can avoid major tendon replacement surgery.

The 25-year-old Japanese right-hander took a major step in his recovery from a torn right ulnar collateral ligament suffered on July 8 against Cleveland by throwing 25 pitches from 60 feet on flat outfield grass rather than a Major League Baseball mound.

Tanaka said the throws felt “good” and that he felt no pain.

The Yankees plan to have Tanaka throw against Tuesday and slowly increase the number of tosses and their distance.

“I wasn't worried, I was more excited to be able to throw,” Tanaka said through a translator. “I got to the next step, so I'm very relieved about that.”

The session came three weeks after he received a platelet-rich plasma injection the team hopes will boost healing and help avoid the tendon replacement operation known as “Tommy John” surgery that went end this season and likely see him miss the entire 2015 season as well.

“Obviously, if there was discomfort, that would be very discouraging, so it is a positive day, but there's still a long way to go and you've got to plow through,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He knows what he needs to do.”

The Yankees, 57-53, hope to have Tanaka return in September so they can make a run at a playoff spot in the final weeks of the season.

New York stands five games behind the American League East division-leading Baltimore Orioles and 1 1/2 games behind Toronto for the last available wild-card playoff spot with just under two months remaining in the season.

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