When the Yankees traded for Michael Pineda, the team knew they were getting a young, hard throwing righty who was only 22. The kid was throwing 97 miles per hour with ease. Unfortunately, Pineda suffered an injury, and has been shelved for the last two years.
So far (and most importantly), Pineda has been healthy. But his velocity hasn’t been quite what it was pre-surgery. He still throws hard, in the low-to-mid 90’s for his fastball, yet his pinpoint control is crucial now. If he can pick his spots, and consistently pitch the ball to where he wants it, he will be extremely successful. Greg Maddux, arguably the best pitcher in the last 30 years, was not a particularly hard thrower, yet his command of the ball was so superior that he won games and struck out batters.
Pineda also has been working on his changeup, which has impressed general manager Brian Cashman thus far. “Even though he was pitching with reduced velocity, he was really working on a changeup,” Cashman said Sunday. “He’s got a much better changeup now than he had then. He developed that in camp under Larry [Rothschild]. That pitch came really quick when he arrived, so that’s a new weapon that will be beneficial if he’s not sitting 97.”
Pineda must have a second “out” pitch if he will excel at the MLB level. He must partially reinvent himself, kind of like Frank Tanana or Kirk McCaskill did back in the day. Both guys were power pitchers who injured their arms, and were forced to become finesse pitchers, with moderate success. However, Pineda still throws hard, and with Brian McCann framing strikes, Pineda should continue right where he left off in spring training.