The New York Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka threw to batters for the first time since being hit in the head by a line drive over two weeks ago and is expected to make his season debut on July 31.

The 31-year-old threw 20 pitches in one inning of work on Tuesday, walking two of the five batters he faced. He is aiming to throw 35-40 pitches in his next batting practice session on Sunday.

"If everything comes out okay, I should be ready to go," he said through a translator.

Facing batters for the first time since being drilled on the right side of the head by a 112-mph liner off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton during batting practice on July 4, the Japanese right-hander opted against pitching from behind a protective screen.

"Having a screen on and pitching was basically not an option for me," he said. "You never have that in a game so no, the plan was not to have it in the first place."

The Yankees begin the season on Thursday against the Washington Nationals, and Tanaka is slated to take the ball for the first time on July 31, in their first game of 2020 against the Boston Red Sox.

This will be Tanaka's seventh season with the Yankees, and since joining the club in 2014, his 75 wins are the sixth most in the AL. He went 11-9 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 games last season, striking out 149 in 182 innings.