We all know the story. The Yankees traded top prospect Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi for 2011 rookie sensation Michael Pineda back in January of 2012. Luckily, Montero has been a total bust apparently more talented at eating than hitting and reporting to camp 40 pounds overweight this spring. Pineda, on the other hand, looks like he’s raring to go and reclaim his spot in the rotation.
The big righty hurled a 35 pitch simulated game Sunday morning and came out with mixed results. Pineda started off the game pitching well however he ended with control problems ending the game with back to back walks. Both walks came off of 3-1 counts.
One of the batters Pineda faced on Sunday was Scott Sizemore. Like Pineda, Sizemore has the talent to compete in the bigs but due to 2 lost seasons from injuries he finds himself competing for a job. Sizemore, who actually homered of Pineda back in 2011, said that Pineda’s pitches looked sharp. The Yankees don’t use a speed gun in simulation games but Sizemore felt his pitches were coming across in the low to mid-90s.
Pineda has the stuff to be a big league pitcher if his shoulder holds up. The 6’7″, 265 pound righty was a rookie sensation in 2011 for the Mariners, actually finishing right behind Ivan Nova for fifth in the Rookie of the Year race. He finished his rookie campaign behind the strength of his mid-90s fastball and elusive slider at 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA while tallying a 173 K/ 55 BB ratio over 171 innings. That’s the stuff aces are made of, not fifth starters.
Then he tore his anterior labrum in his shoulder and missed 2012 with surgery. He returned in 2013 but was quickly shut down again for almost the whole season with complications in his shoulder. He did return to hurl 40.1 innings at three minor league levels, however he was not the pitcher he once was.
Pineda has to win the 5th starter spot to go to New York at the conclusion of Spring Training. He has no bullpen experience and if he should not win the spot, he will start the season at Triple-A Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre to stretch out and throw as a starter. This is what gives Adam Warren and David Phelps the current advantage over Pineda for now.
There is a long road ahead for Pineda and he must travel it in a short time if he wants to stick with the big league club. Friday will be his first test as he will face big league batters for the first time in a year when the Tigers come to The Boss. Girardi would love to see him go 3 innings while the Yankees would love to see him come out unscathed. It’s about time to get some return on their investment.
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