NEW YORK — Masahiro Tanaka took a very small step toward returning to the New York Yankees’ rotation, playing a pain-free game of catch.

Tanaka made 25 throws from 60 feet Monday, his first action since being sidelined in early July with a small tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

The rookie sensation from Japan was 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA before landing on the disabled list. He is trying to avoid Tommy John surgery, which would sideline the 25-year-old All-Star for at least a year.

“I think it all went well,” Tanaka said through a translator. “I think I get to the next step, so I’m very relieved about that.”

Manager Joe Girardi cautions that this is slow start in a long process, but was encouraged the throwing in the outfield went well.

Tanaka will play catch again Tuesday and will increase the intensity as he goes along. Girardi said the real test will come when Tanaka gets on a mound and faces competition.

“It’s way too early to see,” Girardi said. “It’s positive that he didn’t feel anything today, but it’s really light catch.”

Michael Pineda, another sidelined Yankees starter, appears much closer to a return from a right shoulder muscle injury. The right-hander threw 58 pitches in31/3 innings for Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday.

Notes

• The New York Mets have cut slumping 40-year-old Bobby Abreu and are calling up outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis from the minors.

The Mets designated Abreu for assignment after Monday’s 4-3 loss to San Francisco. His final appearance came in the sixth inning when he was sent up as a pinch-hitter, then pulled after the Giants made a pitching change.

Abreu had been out of the majors since 2012 when the Mets promoted him from Class AAA on April 21

• The Texas Rangers have added outfielder-first baseman Mike Carp to their 25-man roster. Carp played for the Mariners from 2009-12.

• Outfielder Nate McLouth has been placed on the 15-day disabled list by Washington with a shoulder injury.

• Cleveland designated hitter Nick Swisher is optimistic his strained right wrist won’t sideline him for more than a couple of days. “I’ve been through stuff like this before,” he said. “It’s just a little tight.” He injured the wrist in his last at-bat Sunday against Texas’ Yu Darvish.

• Baltimore right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (right ankle sprain) has completed his rehabilitative work in the minors and could be activated from the DL as soon as Friday.