We are all very well aware of the back story on pitcher Michael Pineda by now. Great power arm, great size, very good rookie year, supposed to be a second ace behind C.C. Sabathia for years to come. We also know that is nothing more than a pipe dream now. The Yankees gave up prized prospect Jesus Montero, who has fizzled out, can’t hit, and was suspended for PED use. Pineda has missed the past two seasons with shoulder issues and rehab. Monday in Tampa was one small step, nothing to get excited about, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.
Pineda finished off a 35-pitch bullpen session to the watchful eyes of manager Joe Girardi, bench coach Tony Pena, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild. By the time the session was done, Pineda was greeted with a “Very good Michael” from Rothschild, and Pineda left the bullpen with a noticeable smile on his face.
Each of the fifth starter candidates are going to get their fair share of long looks from the staff, but Pineda ideally would slot into the #5 slot behind Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, and Ivan Nova. Along with Pineda, David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and Adam Warren will also receive the opportunity to win the job outright. The losers of the competition are at best, looking at long reliever slots in the Yankees’ bullpen, and worse case scenario, will find themselves at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre.
At the completion of the session, Girardi told reporters: “I thought the ball came out really well today. It looked different than a couple of years ago when he got hurt. I am anxious to see him get in games in 12 days or so.” Hope springs eternal, and anything could happen with Pineda and his surgically-repaired right shoulder between now and the end of March, when Girardi and staff will select from the various candidates as to whom will be the team’s fifth and final starter in the rotation.
Girardi added: “I think it would be a boost. It’s a significant arm. If he is able to come back and be in your rotation … it’s a young starter. He doesn’t have a ton of mileage on him in a sense…I think it would be pretty significant.”