8/16/2014 9:10 P.M. ET
Dedicated Tanaka feels good after throwing heat
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
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."
Beltran works way back to start in right field
ST. PETERSBURG -- Carlos Beltran said that he was given no better than a 50-50 chance of playing the outfield again this season, but that coin flip has worked out in the Yankees' favor. The veteran played right field on Saturday, his first appearance there since May 11.
"I'm happy, of course," Beltran said. "We have been looking forward to this, trying to put my arm in condition to be back in the outfield. It really took a while. ... Right now, I just feel like it's time."
Beltran has a bone spur in his right elbow that will require surgery after the season, but the 37-year-old said that he has been throwing without discomfort. His only action on Saturday was catching an eighth-inning fly ball in New York's 3-2 win over the Rays.
The Yankees have been playing Martin Prado in right field since his July 31 acquisition from the D-backs, with Beltran limited to designated hitter duties. Beltran's return to outfield play will increase manager Joe Girardi's flexibility in putting together lineups.
"You can get more right-handed hitters in there today [against left-hander Drew Smyly]," Girardi said. "You get in long stretches and you can give other guys a DH day. We've got some long stretches coming up."
Though his season stats are not up to expectations, Beltran has seen a jump in his numbers recently, which coincides with the improvement in his elbow. In 26 games since the All-Star break, Beltran posted a split line of .299/.355/.495, with five homers and 17 RBIs.
"I guess, in the back of my mind, sometimes I get caught up a little bit protecting it," Beltran said. "At the end of the day, I just have to come and prepare myself and try to do the best I can. Once the game starts, I try not to think about it, but during batting practice and cage work and things like that, I try to be smart and try not to do much."
Beltran said that since his elbow issue is not a secret, he would expect teams to test his arm.
"I've been playing catch, and I've been throwing to the bases -- second base, for the most part," Beltran said. "I've been making throws where I feel like if that happened in the game, I could do that. It feels fine."
Long confident Yanks will battle out of slump
ST. PETERSBURG -- The morale level has fallen in the Yankees' dugout during their recent slide, according to hitting coach Kevin Long, who believes that several of the team's players are pressing for results that aren't coming.
"We need to get back to where we're feeling good," Long said. "That was only five or six days ago. These guys are going through a tough time. We're going through a tough time. I only know one way to get out of this, and that's to keep fighting, keep working, keep grinding, and I know the guys in this room will do that."
New York has managed seven runs during the five-game skid, hitting .173 (28-for-161) overall and .064 (2-for-31) with runners in scoring position. They've struck out 46 times against eight walks.
"You're always going to look down when you don't score runs," manager Joe Girardi said. "That's the nature of the game. Guys are frustrated. I've said that guys are frustrated because they know that they're capable of doing more. We want to play in October, and when you lose, you should be frustrated. You shouldn't just blow it off."
Long said that the Yankees' goal is to be scoring five or six runs a game, which obviously they have not come close to achieving.
"Sometimes the pitching doesn't allow you to do that," Long said. "Sometimes there's days when I feel like we really should, and we don't do it. Against a Corey Kluber [Cleveland] or [the Rays' Alex Cobb], it's understandable that the runs are going to be down.
"Not to throw [Baltimore's] Chris Tillman under the bus, but he didn't have his best stuff [on Aug. 13]. That's a guy where you want to capitalize and take advantage of it. ... Some of those other guys we should be able to get to."
• Catcher Brian McCann (concussion) was eligible to be activated from the seven-day disabled list on Saturday, but the Yankees have decided to give him at least one more day to continue workouts.
Girardi said that he thought McCann looked "kind of lethargic" going through catching drills and batting practice on Friday, which was likely related to resting for several days after sustaining the concussion in an Aug. 8 game against the Indians.
• Right-hander David Phelps (inflammation in right elbow) is scheduled to resume throwing during the Yankees' upcoming homestand. Phelps has been on the disabled list since Aug. 4.
• Right-hander Andrew Bailey (recovery from right shoulder surgery) has had setbacks while rehabbing in Tampa, Fla., and is not expected to be able to help at the big league level this year, Girardi said. Bailey signed a Minor League deal with the Yanks in February.
• On this date in 1948, Babe Ruth passed away at the age of 53. Ruth's body was laid in state at the entrance of Yankee Stadium for the next two days. On this date in 2006, the Yankees broke ground on the construction of the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009.