Michael Pineda faces a possible suspension in the wake of the “Pine Tar Gate” fiasco at Fenway Park on Wednesday night. The penalty for having a foreign substance is an automatic 10-game suspension in the minors, but the Commissioner’s Office has discretion at the major league level. The current trend seems to be for 10 games or less. Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry was suspended ten games in 1982 for doctoring the baseball in a game against the Red Sox. In 1987, former Yankee Joe Niekro was suspended for ten games while with the Twins when umpires found an emery board hidden in his glove during a game. More recently Julian Tavarez was given 10 games in 2004 and Brenden Donnelly got the same a year later for a foreign substance on his glove. However, in 2012 Joel Peralta only got eight games for a foreign substance. In addition, there have been several high profile “non-suspensions” for pitchers with unknown substances including Pineda earlier this season, Clay Buchholz last season and even one time Yankee Kenny Rogers during the 2006 World Series. None of those incidents gave rise to a suspension.
The final decision on whether to suspend Pineda and if so, for how long, ultimately rests with Joe Torre, Major League Baseball’s Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations. But suspensions of starting pitchers rarely has the effect as it does with position players because a starter only plays once every five days. So assuming Pineda gets the full ten game suspension, he would really only miss two starts and would likely pitch immediately upon coming off the suspension. However, due to the Yankees having an off day on Monday, Pineda’s spot in the rotation would not come up again until May 3 against the Rays. So effectively a 10-game suspension for Pineda would only result in one missed start.
While Pineda is suspended, the Yankees would not even be at a disadvantage by having a short bench or one less bullpen guy. They would simply skip Pineda’s turn in the rotation on Monday and then spot start David Phelps, who figures to be getting more innings as a long man anyway with Vidal Nuno entering the rotation and Adam Warren proving himself to be the more consistent setup man of the two, on May 3rd. Then pitch Pineda on May 4th giving each starter an extra day off before recycling to regular rest for the rotation with the off day on Thursday May 8th.
Furthermore, if the suspension was less than ten games, the effect for the Yankees would be naught. They would skip his spot once and then have everyone go on regular rest. Pineda will sacrifice some salary for his stupidity and/or arrogance in getting caught on Wednesday night but thanks to a scheduling quirk, the Yankees have nothing to fear from a possible suspension.