Another bullpen session, another glowing review from manager Joe Girardi. Before he even has to toe the rubber in an exhibition game, the oft-injured, much-maligned Michael Pineda continues to impress those who matter most: Girardi, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild with crisp bullpen sessions. Pineda continued to build his case to be the Yankees fifth starter out of spring training with another solid bullpen session on Thursday at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.
I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen. It’s coming out easy. I don’t see him overthrowing,” Girardi said. “I see his stuff being sharp. He’s hitting his spots. His mechanics look much more polished than they were a couple of years ago.
Pineda was acquired in the blockbuster trade that sent the Yankees’ top prospect at the time, catcher Jesus Montero, to the Seattle Mariners. Things haven’t worked out so well for Montero either. Injuries, an inability to hit at the big league level, a PED suspension, and now, reporting to camp overweight, have Montero on the verge of being out of baseball completely. Pineda for his part, has yet to officially throw a pitch in pinstripes, injuring his shoulder, having surgery, and spending all of last season in the minors rehabbing to mixed reviews.
The 25-year-old Pineda is competing with David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and Adam Warren for the vacant fifth starter’s job in the Yankees starting rotation. When he was acquired, the Yankees brass viewed Pineda as a front of the rotation starter, a second ace to C.C. Sabathia. During his rookie season in Seattle, Pineda finished 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA and 173 strikeouts. He finished fifth in American League Rookie of the Year voting, and was an All-Star. If he can return to his pre-injury form, the sky could be the limit for the 6’7″, 260 lb. fireballer who says he’s in the best shape of his career. His success would be a big boost to a Yankees’ rotation that has several question marks regarding age, health, and inexperience. Through one week of training camp, the returns have been as Girardi stated: “He looks good to me.”