Michael Pineda may be the most frustrating Yankee pitcher in terms of staying healthy since the original “American Idle,” Carl Pavano. After not pitching a single major league game in his first two years in pinstripes, he came into spring training fighting for a job. He responded by having a terrific camp and winning the fifth starter job over David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren. He started the season in fantastic form going 2-2 with 15 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings. Then the bottom fell out.
Pineda was suspended for ten games for using pine tar to doctor the baseball against the Red Sox. This came only a week after getting caught without penalty against the same team. Then while he was suspended, he hurt himself. So after a ten-game suspension, he went on the 15-day disabled list. Then he suffered a setback that will keep him sidelined longer than the originally estimated 3-4 weeks.
On Wednesday, Pineda threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session as part of his throwing program to return from the injury. The team and medical staff will reevaluate him today and most likely have him throw another bullpen session in a few days before facing live hitters again. Then he will need to go on a rehab assignment to the minors to get his arm strength back up before he can be reinserted in the rotation.
I don’t know exactly when the date [of Pineda's rehab assignment] is going to be. It seems like again we have a lot of guys that we’re trying to find out here.” Joe Girardi told reporters.
The Yankees need Pineda back healthy and throwing the way he was before the suspension. I would never advocate rushing a player back onto the field that was not ready. However, it is imperative to the Yankees’ season that Pineda get back as soon as possible and not suffer any further setbacks in his comeback.
The current state of the rotation is abysmal. CC Sabathia, the one-time ace of the staff, was throwing the ball slowly and ineffectively before he got hurt. He will now be on the shelf until July at the earliest. Ivan Nova is out for the year. Hiroki Kuroda has been terrible. Even the great Masahiro Tanaka lost a game this week.
The Backup Bombers filling out the rotation (Phelps, Nuno and Chase Whitley) have actually done better than expected. However, this has been done with smoke and mirrors. Nuno can’t hit 90 on the gun. Phelps has alternated good and bad outings. Whitley has yet to pitch five full innings in a game.
Pineda is the key to the Yankees’ season. They need him back pitching the way he has shown he can, dominating hitters the way he was in March and April. They need him to slip into the number two starter role behind Tanaka and give the Yankees’ bullpen a break. If he doesn’t make it back to the Yankees soon, the Yankees will be in some serious trouble.