8/21/2014 5:48 P.M. ET
Tanaka ready to take next step, toss live BP
By Bryan Hoch and Jamal Collier / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka will make the next step in his rehab program on Saturday, when he faces hitters during live batting practice. That is likely to come at Yankee Stadium, although the Yankees are still trying to work out the details of who he will face.
Tanaka threw breaking balls during a 35-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday for the first time since a partial tear was discovered in his right ulnar collateral ligament on July 11, and he did not feel any discomfort. He is trying to rehab the injury, avoiding potential season-ending Tommy John surgery so he can pitch for the Yankees again in September.
Tanaka says he is ready to move past concern about the injury and work toward building his pitch count back up so he can return to the mound.
The Yankees are feeling encouraged enough that they will continue to move him along in the progression, but they will certainly remain cautious with his every move.
"Each step he increases intensity," said manager Joe Girardi. "I'm sure BP will be a little bit more intense than bullpens."
Fire starter? Yanks hold casual team meeting
NEW YORK -- The frustration in the Yankees' clubhouse bubbled over on Thursday morning as several position players held an informal meeting, challenging themselves to pick up the production with less than seven weeks remaining in the regular season.
"We talked about it before the game, that we needed to come out with a little more energy, and hopefully some emotion, and play the way that we're capable of playing," Chase Headley said after the Yankees' 3-0 victory over the Astros. "We understand that we're a lot better offensively than we've shown.
"That was kind of the point, to come out with a little bit of fire and hopefully put some runs on the board. ... Some of the position players got together and said, 'Enough is enough, and let's go.'"
The Yankees produced a three-run second inning against Houston's Dallas Keuchel, sparked by Headley's two-run double, which was enough support as Brandon McCarthy hurled a four-hit shutout. The chat wasn't a cure-all, but the results were slightly better: in nine games since a 10-run outburst against the Indians on Aug. 8, the Yankees had averaged 2.22 runs per game.
"We just had a little meeting this morning and talked about some things, kind of cleared the air," Brett Gardner said. "A lot of guys talked. It was good. Hopefully a game like today kind of gets us going a little bit and we can carry that momentum over into the weekend."
Gardner said that the meeting could be a turning point for the Yankees, who have lost seven of their last 10 games and trail the Tigers by four games for the second Amreican League Wild Card spot.
"I don't think it ever hurts. At this point, we're trying to mix things up a little bit," Gardner said. "What we've been doing hasn't been working, so hopefully we can take this momentum, carry it over into the weekend and play some better baseball."
Headley said that the Yankees are feeling a sense of urgency, but not because of the Wild Card race. Coming off two losses to the sub-.500 Astros and with the White Sox due in town, the reality is that if they do not win their games, there will be no point to continue scoreboard-watching.
"It was just, let's get on the same page and let's go," Headley said. "I know everybody wants to win, everybody's working, everybody's doing the right things. You need that little extra sometimes, and I think sometimes those little discussions -- I don't know if you'd really call it a meeting -- but getting those guys together and getting guys on the same page can go a long ways."
Before Thursday's game, manager Joe Girardi said that he continues to believe that the players in his lineup are good enough to turn the season around.
"The effort is there every day," Girardi said. "[Wednesday] we had seven or eight guys hitting early trying to figure this out and get going. So I will be optimistic as long as they continue to prepare correctly and they work hard."
Yanks recall extra bat in Wheeler, option Whitley
NEW YORK -- The Yankees recalled infielder Zelous Wheeler from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and immediately slotted him as the designated hitter for Thursday's series finale against the Astros.
Wheeler, 27, has batted .267 with two home runs and three RBIs in 16 games with New York this season.
The Yankees needed another position player because of Carlos Beltran's recurring right elbow injury; Beltran received a cortisone injection in the elbow on Wednesday and is unlikely to play before Saturday.
"With Carlos being an uncertainty for a day or two, we felt that we could use the extra bat," manager Joe Girardi said. "We're seeing a lot of lefties, so we brought him up."
With Beltran out on Wednesday, Girardi had only Francisco Cervelli and Brendan Ryan available on the bench. In a corresponding roster move, the Yankees optioned right-hander Chase Whitley to Triple-A; Whitley is 4-3 with a 5.43 ERA in 19 big league games (12 starts) this year.
• David Phelps, currently on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation, will work back to the club as a reliever. Phelps was scheduled to play catch again on Thursday and expects to be throwing off a mound within the next week.
"I think at this stage, we're going day by day," Phelps said. "We'll hopefully amp it up when we get through this week. I took two weeks off, it's not like I'll be on the mound this weekend."
• On this date in 1988, the Yankees dedicated Monument Park plaques to former catchers Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. On this date in 2013, Ichiro Suzuki recorded his 4,000th professional hit (including 1,278 in Japan) with a first-inning single off the Blue Jays' R.A. Dickey.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.