After two years of waiting, it appears that the New York Yankees are finally going to get the last piece to their 2012 World Series puzzle.
Now 25-years-old, right-hander Michael Pineda has reported to the Yankees’ spring training complex to start his third season with the organization despite never throwing a pitch for the big league club. But this year, he’s confident he’ll finally get back to the Major Leagues and be the same guy the Yankees traded for.
“I’m the same Michael Pineda,” the 6-7, 260-pound hurler said on Monday. “I’m feeling 100 percent right now. My body is in the perfect shape. I’m ready to go.”
After a solid rookie season in 2011 (9-10, 3.74 ERA, 173 Ks in 28 starts), Pineda was brought over to New York in January 2012 in an infamous trade with the Seattle Mariners. In dire need of pitching, the Yankees were forced to part with their top prospect, catcher Jesus Montero. In dire need of hitting, the Mariners did the same with Pineda.
Since the deal was announced, it’s been all downhill for both sides. Pineda showed up to camp overweight in 2012, and wound up missing the entire season with a torn labrum; not to mention he was busted for DUI that August. Last season, Pineda was supposed to re-join the Yankees late in the year, but wound up being shut down after making just 10 minor-league starts.
As for Montero, he had a poor first year in Seattle, hitting just .260 with a .298 OBP. Then in 2013 he hit so terribly that he was demoted to Triple-A, where he tore his meniscus. To make matters worse, it was revealed that he had been involved with Tony Bosch and his Biogenesis clinic, leading Montero to accept a 50-game suspension along with the 11 other players penalized for PEDs on August 5th.
There’s no doubt that to this point, the trade has been a disaster for everyone involved. While Montero may not have a chance to redeem himself in Seattle, Pineda claims to be fully healthy and therefore has a golden opportunity to win the Yankees’ 5th starter’s job this spring.
“I’m feeling stronger and my shoulder is feeling good,” he said. “I’m here and I’m ready for competition, and I want to help my team this year.”
There are a lot of ifs surrounding this year’s club, and Pineda is one of the bigger ones. If he can find a way to be even just a sliver of what he was for the Mariners in his rookie season, the Yankee pitching staff would instantly be given a huge boost. Not only could Pineda be a fine back-end starter and round-out the rotation, but he would allow David Phelps and Vidal Nuno to shift to the bullpen and make up for the relievers the team lost in the offseason.
So as with the previous two seasons, Michael Pineda’s potential production is essential to the Yankees being as strong as they can be in 2014. Only time will tell if he can finally make the impact we’ve all been waiting for.