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Tanaka returns to mound to face hitters

The image of Giancarlo Stanton’s sizzling liner flashed through Masahiro Tanaka’s mind atop the Yankee Stadium mound on Tuesday afternoon, and when the Yankees right-hander watched his first pitch travel across home plate without incident, he exhaled. Back to business. Back to normal.

Tanaka faced hitters for the first time since his concussion on July 4, tossing 20 pitches. His next step will be to double that workload in another live batting practice session on Sunday, which will take place at the club’s alternate training site at PNC Field in Moosic, Pa.

“Being back on the mound and being able to pitch, without a doubt, it was a big step forward for me,” Tanaka said through a translator. “It tells that I’m progressing in the right direction.”

As he did on July 4, when Stanton laced a 112 mph liner off the right side of Tanaka’s head, the hurler opted to work without a protective screen. Tanaka explained that he would not have a screen in a game, so he had little interest in using one during practice.

“I thought he was strong,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “The fastball had life to it. I thought the stuff was pretty good. I thought it was just an important step of obviously getting back out there and facing hitters. I was really encouraged by what I saw.”