Losing some weight is a good sign that Pineda's head is in the right place (Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports)

New York Yankees Links 2/15: Pineda slimmer, while Nova and Phelps battle for fifth spot

Behind the top three pitchers in the Yankees rotation, the starting staff is pretty young. Players like Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, and David Phelps are all on the right side of age 30 and will likely be counted on in the coming years to produce. Hughes is the only surefire starter this season, as the other three have either battled injury, ineffectiveness, or in Phelps’ case, just needed more seasoning. As with every spring camp, they’re all poised to make their mark and be the guy going into Opening Day.

According to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, Pineda has dropped 20 pounds from his starting weight last season. Last year he came into spring training at 280 lbs. and is now comfortably at 260 lbs. After being acquired in a trade from the Mariners in 2012, Pineda reportedly came into camp last season well overweight and the front office wasn’t too happy.

“Everything is doing well. Everything has been good,” Pineda said. “I’m feeling very excited, I’m feeling good. My shoulder is stronger right now.”

It’s very nice seeing him in good spirits, and slimming down will definitely take some pressure off his arm. He’s the future of the pitching staff, so it’s encouraging to hear that he’s going to take better care of himself going forward.

“I won’t make this mistake anymore,” he said.

In other news, the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation is presumably Ivan Nova’s to lose, right? After a good 2011 campaign, he followed that up with a terrible 2012 season. Meanwhile, David Phelps stepped up and performed very well considering he bounced around from spot starter, to long relief, to mid-relief, to AAA, back to the majors. He exhibited mental toughness and it showed throughout the season.

According to Chad Jennings of the Journal News, Nova is up for the challenge and is poised to prove to everybody that last year’s second half (7.00+ ERA) was just a fluke.

“I don’t think I’ve got to prove anything to myself,” Nova said. “I know what I’ve got. I see a lot of veteran pitchers go through the same thing, go through that, and then find a way to get out of it. Hopefully this year will be better.”

Manager Joe Girardi said Nova definitely needs to prove himself during spring because of his bad second half.

“He has to go out and prove himself, that’s the bottom line, because of what he went through the second half of last season,” Girardi said. “He has to earn a job. You’d like to think that every starter would go out and earn a job, but we know that’s not realistic. I don’t think we’re going to look at CC’s numbers real heavily, or Kuroda’s.”

Meanwhile, Phelps is in the underdog role — one seemingly he has played before — and takes a little of the pressure off. He came into camp with his arm already in pitching shape, which will allow the coaching staff to get a longer look at him.

“I pushed myself a little more in the offseason so my arm is ready a little quicker during spring training because I’m trying to make an impression,” Phelps said. “It helped me out last year, my arm felt fresh throughout the entire year. I did the same routine I did last year coming into camp.”

His flexibility of being able to start and pitch in relief will likely allow him to break camp with the team, but he’ll need to impress Girardi and Co. in order to take that final spot from Nova. A little competition didn’t hurt anybody, so this is definitely good for everybody involved.

Tags: New York Yankees

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