New York Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka, who is trying to work his way back from a partially torn UCL in his right elbow, threw 49 pitches in a simulated game and reported no issues Thursday.

The Yankees are optimistic that Tanaka can return to help them in the pennant race in September. Instead of opting for Tommy John surgery, Tanaka decided to rehab his elbow.

According to USA Today, Tanaka used all of his pitches without any signs of discomfort in the simulated game. He has been sidelined since July 8.

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

"He was good He threw all of his pitches. I didn't see him favoring anything, and that's a good sign. It was a good step in the right direction.''

Tanaka is expected to make at least two more starts in simulated games before rejoining the rotation.

"I'm still not there yet,'' Tanaka said. "I still have some work to get ready. I think I'm being cautious more than excited.''

Tanaka threw against infielder Brendan Ryan, who batted from both sides of the plate.

"He could get outs now on stuff alone," Ryan said.

The 25-year-old Tanaka was off to a strong start in his first season with the Yankees after signing a seven-year, $155 million contract during the winter. He has a 12-4 record and 2.51 ERA with 135 strikeouts in 18 starts, but he was 1-3 with a 4.25 ERA in his last four outings.