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Yankees' Tanaka says he feels good following bullpen session

SAINT PETERSBURG, Florida -- New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, rehabbing a torn elbow ligament, threw 25 fastballs off a bullpen mound on Saturday and said he felt no pain.

“I think we're heading in the right direction, so I feel good about that,” Tanaka said after the bullpen session at Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The 25-year-old Japanese right-hander was diagnosed with a partially torn right ulnar collateral ligament in July.

Later that month he received a platelet-rich plasma injection as he and the team sought to boost healing and help avoid “Tommy John” tendon replacement surgery that would end his season and likely see him miss all of 2015 as well.

He threw for the first time on August 5, but hadn't thrown full force off a mound until Saturday.

He said he hoped to pitch again this season, regardless of where the Yankees are in the playoff chase.

“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.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi likes that idea, too, saying the team can only truly gauge Tanaka's recovery once he has pitched in games.

The Yankees went into Saturday's contest against the Rays having lost five straight games, including Friday's defeat to Tampa Bay in the first game of a three-game series.

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