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Monday, August 4, 2014
Updated: August 5, 12:28 PM ET
Masahiro Tanaka tests elbow

By Andrew Marchand
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka felt a sense of relief after tossing a ball 25 times in the Yankee Stadium outfield Monday as he attempts to avoid Tommy John surgery and return for the Yankees' playoff push.

"Good," said Tanaka in English, bypassing his translator, upon the initial question asking how he felt.

On Monday, Tanaka tested his right elbow for the first time since he received a platelet-rich plasma injection July 14 in the hope that he could avoid surgery for a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Surgery would finish his 2014 and likely keep him out all of 2015.

Tanaka, who had tosses of 60 feet on Monday, will throw again Tuesday.

"I think it all went well," Tanaka said.

The Yankees have lost four starters from their Opening Day rotation. One of the replacements, David Phelps, was put on the DL on Monday with inflammation in the elbow. Phelps will not pick up a baseball for weeks, meaning he may not return to the majors for the rest of the month.

Matt Daley was called up, but manager Joe Girardi said he had yet to decide who will replace Phelps in the rotation.

The expectation is that if Tanaka returns it likely won't be until September as he has already been out for a month and would need to build up his arm strength.

Tanaka, whom the Yankees invested $175 million in to bring over from Japan, began the season as perhaps baseball's best pitcher. In his initial 14 starts, he was 11-1 with a 1.99 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 99 2/3 innings. However, in his final four starts before going on the DL, he was just 1-3 with a 4.35 ERA, striking out just 22 in 29 2/3 innings.

He hadn't thrown a baseball since July 8 in Cleveland, where he was knocked out of a game for the first time this season as the Indians lit him up for five runs, including two homers, in 6 2/3 innings. Afterward, Tanaka informed the Yankees his elbow had been bothering him.

The Yankees hope Tanaka and Michael Pineda can return for the playoff stretch.

Pineda is scheduled to have two more rehab outings, including Monday night, before returning to the rotation around the middle of the month. Girardi sounded pessimistic that the Yankees would try to fast-forward his rehab and have Pineda replace Phelps this week.