Finally, Michael Pineda will play for the Yankees. His Spring Training has been encouraging thus far, and he will either enter the pitching rotation as a fifth starter, or a long reliever. However, if he does earn the final spot, how many games will Pineda pitch?
After surgery, a pitcher’s arm is fairly tender. Nowadays, most managers, general managers, coaches, and other staff fear of overly straining a pitcher’s most valuable asset. Some recent pitchers after Tommy John Surgery have had significant restriction on their innings pitched, most notably Stephen Strasburg in 2012. Other players who didn’t exceed 200 IP after going under the scalpel include Josh Johnson, Chris Carpenter, and Adam Wainwright. One would think the Yankees act similarly with Pineda.
Let’s say Pineda beats out David Phelps and others for spot number 5. That means every fifth day, he walks to the mound, for initially no more than 7 innings at a time (if he pitches well). Then, in the middle of his twenty ninth start, he would eclipse the 200 mark. Most likely, the Yankees wouldn’t want Pineda pitching in more than 30 games. However, this is the ideal situation, especially when the other alternative includes Pineda floundering in April, being sent down, and him losing confidence.
So far, the 25 year old has pitched in 4 and 2/3 innings. He hasn’t played against Major League bats since 2011, and will probably show a little rust at first. But most importantly at this point, those 14 outs have looked impressive so far, with nine of them being punchouts. It would be wonderful if Pineda keeps rolling into the spring and summer, but the Yanks want to be careful. 175 innings seems to be a good range for the hurler. Pineda would be a nice weapon to have in September, but only if his arm isn’t shot.