The New York Yankees are optimistic that ace Masahiro Tanaka can return to help them in the pennant race in September after watching his performance Thursday morning in his first big test.

Tanaka used all of his pitches without any signs of discomfort in a 49-pitch simulated game. He has been sidelined since July 8 with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Yet, instead of opting for Tommy John surgery, Tanaka decided to rehab his elbow and try to return in time to get the Yankees into the postseason.

"I don't see anything to believe he won't take the next step,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I am optimistic.''