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8/21/2014 12:31 A.M. ET

Yanks, Tanaka encouraged by latest 'pen session

NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka did not need a translator to answer "good" in response to questions of how his arm was feeling after his latest bullpen session on Wednesday.

Tanaka continues to pass every early test with no discomfort in his rehab of a partial tear in his right ulnar collateral ligament. This latest session consisted of 35 pitches -- including fastballs, curveballs, sliders and five splitters -- and other than a little rust, Tanaka reported no problems.

"The fact that he felt good today was encouraging," manager Joe Girardi said. "We'll see how he feels tomorrow; obviously that's really important. But he was able to throw his curveball, his slider and his split. I watched it, and he looked pretty good."

Girardi declined to put any specific timetable on Tanaka's next steps. He has now thrown two bullpen sessions, starting with 25 fastballs on Saturday followed by his session Wednesday, so he might be in line to throw another bullpen session or he could progress to throwing batting practice.

Tanaka said he now feels the injury is no longer a huge concern and he is ready to move forward with building up his pitch count.

"Absolutely. I feel that I've gotten the health; the elbow is fine now," Tanaka said. "I'm more looking towards playing in a game now. But that said, even that said, I think I do have to be cautious about the elbow."

And even as they eye a September return for Tanaka, the Yankees certainly will be monitoring his elbow closely.

"I think we have to; that's our job," Girardi said. "So far, so good. Every step has been positive for him, and that's obviously the way we hope it continues to go."

Beltran again sidelined by right elbow issue

NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran received a cortisone shot to help him deal with the soreness in his right elbow that kept him out of Wednesday's lineup and will sideline him for at least Thursday's game as well.

Beltran felt pain during a couple swings during Tuesday's 7-4 loss to the Astros, and while it was a feeling that has not been unusual for him, this time it felt worse. He has been dealing with a bone spur in that elbow since April, and it will require surgery during the offseason.

"I've been feeling pain once in a while, but what I was feeling yesterday was very sharp," Beltran said. "I just felt that, talking to the [Yankees team doctor Christopher Ahmad], it probably could be that the previous cortisone [shots] are wearing out."

Beltran sometimes feels a grabbing sensation in the elbow after he swings a bat during games. But that feeling has usually disappeared by the next morning, which made the pain he felt Wednesday a cause for concern. The cortisone shot he received on Wednesday was his third this season.

Beltran is hoping to return to the Yankees lineup on Friday, but that seems to depend on if he responds to the shot well enough to be able to swing a bat on Thursday.

"He's day to day, we'll go through the next couple of days and see what we've got," manager Joe Girardi said after Wednesday's 5-2 loss to Houston. "He won't be a player for me tomorrow. I don't expect that, but we'll see after that."

Beltran was originally in the Yankees' lineup Wednesday as the designated hitter before he informed Girardi of his injury. Derek Jeter replaced Beltran as the DH; Stephen Drew, who was originally going to play second base, was moved to short; and Martin Prado and Ichiro Suzuki played second base and right field, respectively.

This serves as the latest setback for Beltran, 37, who is in the first season of a three-year, $45 million contract. He has missed 33 games with the elbow injury and a mild concussion, and he is hitting .233 with 14 homers and 45 RBIs -- well below his average of .281, 24 homers and 88 RBIs during his first 15 full seasons in the big leagues.

Beltran had been limited to the DH role since his elbow injury before he played the outfield on Saturday for the first time since May 11. He saw limited action in the field that game -- a fly ball in the eighth inning -- so Girardi downplayed that as having anything to do with this recent setback or Beltran's 1-for-28 recent slide at the plate.

"He said he's felt it other times, but it goes away," Girardi said. "Our concern is that he woke up and felt it this morning, but this is not the first time that this has happened."

Robbing Robbie: Gardner thrills with catches

NEW YORK -- Brett Gardner's range and athletic ability in left field were on display on two occasions Wednesday night and both at the expense of Astros right fielder Robbie Grossman.

With one out in the ninth inning, Grossman skied a fly ball toward the left-field wall in foul territory, and Gardner tumbled over the wall and into the first row as he extended his arm to make the catch.

"It was more of a fall," Gardner said. "Just got over to the wall and try and catch it."

He gave what was remaining of the announced crowd of 42,102 fans at Yankee Stadium something to cheer for and followed it up with a two-out single in the ninth inning to ignite a small rally. But the Yankees could not muster a comeback and fell to the Astros, 5-2.

Gardner also made a sliding catch just barely in fair territory near the foul line in left field to rob Grossman leading off the game.

Yanks to bring rehabbing Phelps back as reliever

NEW YORK -- In order to get him back from the disabled list more quickly, the Yankees have decided to transition right-hander David Phelps back as a reliever.

Manager Joe Girardi said he, general manager Brian Cashman and trainer Steve Donohue sat down with Dr. Christopher Ahmad to discuss the results of Phelps' MRI from Monday and decided this was their best option.

Phelps was a starter and pitching rather well when he went on the disabled list on Aug. 4 with right elbow inflammation. But the Yankees are running out of time in the regular season and are hanging onto postseason hopes -- they now trail the Tigers by five games in the American League Wild Card race.

Phelps said he has not felt any pain in the elbow in more than a week. He made 50 throws from 60 feet on Monday and played catch on Wednesday.

"It won't obviously happen overnight, but we'll try to get him ready for the bullpen," Girardi said.

Bombers bits

On this date in 1938, Lou Gehrig hit his 23rd and final career grand slam off Buck Ross in the first inning of an 11-3 Yankees win at Philadelphia's Shibe Park. The 23 career grand slams would stand as a Major League record for 74 years before Alex Rodriguez broke it in 2013.

Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.