Michael Pineda and early spring optimism



There is nothing quite like the first few days of Spring Training, before position players even show up to camp. Pitchers aren’t doing much more than throwing in the bullpen or facing hitters during live batting practice, yet they all seem to look great and are poised for a big season. Just the other day Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told John Lott that Brandon Morrow “looks like a good, strong, starting, durable pitcher.” If that’s not a sign of early Spring Training optimism, nothing is.

The Yankees, of course, are no different. John Ryan Murphy (weird) told Andrew Marchand that Masahiro Tanaka was “very impressive” during his second bullpen session yesterday and that’s great. It doesn’t really mean anything though. Hitters will tell us how impressive Tanaka is once he gets into an actual game in a few weeks. But still, this is the time of year when everyone gets excited about everything and so far the team’s new high-priced right-hander looks as good as advertised.

Tanaka is not the only pitcher in camp who is something of an unknown. Not even close, really. In fact, I consider Michael Pineda an even bigger unknown after missing two years due to major shoulder surgery. At least Tanaka spent the last few seasons pitching against a reasonably high level of competition. Pineda has thrown two bullpen sessions since Spring Training opened last Friday — including 35 pitches on Monday — and he has looked great, because of course.

“I thought the ball was coming out easier [than last spring],” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings on Monday. “I know he’s had time to clean up a couple things too, mechanically, in this two-year span. He just looked like it came out free and easy to me. Didn’t look like he put a ton of effort into it, or that he was overthrowing it. … To me, it looked different than what I saw a couple years ago when he got hurt and was pitching in games. I’m anxious to see him obviously get in some games in the next 12 days or so.”

Pineda is the perfect example of how this time of year lends itself to getting excited about a player, no matter what hurdles they have to clear. He hasn’t thrown a Major League pitch in two years and he wasn’t exactly a finished product before he got hurt either. Remember how he needed to develop a changeup and was fly ball prone? Those issues didn’t disappear as he rehabbed from shoulder surgery. Pineda says he’s the same guy he was before the injury — “I’m feeling so strong. I’m feeling good power … I’m throwing the same. Mechanics the same. Everything is the same. All pitches are the same. I’m the same Michael Pineda,” he said to Jennings — which means there is still development to be done before he lives up to his potential.

And yet, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Pineda in 2014. He is finally healthy, first and foremost. He turned only 25 just last month. During that 2011 season with the Mariners, he became the only rookie pitcher in baseball history with a 9.0+ K/9 and sub-3.0 BB/9. That’s really impressive. Michael Pineda finally being healthy and in position to help the Yankees this year is exciting even if so many questions remain.

There will be plenty of time to worry and fret about Pineda and every other part of the Yankees over the next few months. Trust me, it’ll happen. Pineda will have back-to-back crappy starts at some point and we’ll all wonder if he’s breaking down again. The Yankees will lose like four games in a row and we’ll all worry things will never turn around. That’s just the nature of the beast. This time of year is different though. This is the time of year when everything is a reason to be excited, including Pineda’s early bullpen work.


  1. Duzzi says:

    If Michael Pineda truly is healthy and anywhere close to the pitcher he was with the Mariners he absolutely has to be in the starting rotation and this will be another fake 5th starter competition.

    • LarryM Fl says:

      While I hope Pineda is healthy. I can not see pitching a ton of innings because of the inactivity over the past two years. Somehow, someway he has to built up to a starters strength which will not be all this year, IMHO.

      I could see a healthy Pineda being the long man in the bullpen with a work load of 75 innings give or take than next year starting and getting more heavy workload.

      • ALZ says:

        Don’t think that makes sense. Already at 4 years of control left, and you say 2 more years before he is built up?

        If he isn’t ready he should be in the minors working on his 3rd pitch and building up arm strength.

        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          They have 5 years left, thanks to his spending so much time in the minors last season.

          • Tom says:

            Isn’t it still kind of borderline?

            Are you confusing this with him missing Super Two status?(so this is a pre-arb year). I think he has a little over 2 years of service time now, which I think means he’s a FA after 2017 (pre-arb this year, arb1/2/3 2015-17), unless he has another stint in the minors.

            Cot’s has him at 2.1 years of service time; though they could be off. I think all his time on the DL was considered MLB time – meaning all of 2012 and a bit of 2013 until his rehab clock was up and he was optioned down. Add that to the year he had with the M’s and I think he’s over 2 years, but just not enough for Super Two.

            • Cool Lester Smooth says:

              Yeah, I fucked up. It’s 4 years and he’s a Super Two.

              • Ed says:

                He missed the Super Two cutoff by about 20 days. He would’ve been eligible for arbitration this past offseason if he made the cutoff. Super Two isn’t an issue anymore – he’ll be a regular 3 time arb guy.

    • D$1184 says:

      I still see the wisdom in letting him start the season in extended spring training in Tampa, to avoid the nastier winter months in New York. Cold weather can be nasty on replaced shoulders. He’ll get a chance this year. It’s a long season and he’s not going to pitch 200 innings. We’ll get his innings in there somewhere.

      It’s just exciting to know that he and Manny Banuelos are both healthy and throwing again. I think Ty Hensley might be as well. I hope so, at least.

      • I'm One says:

        he’s not going to pitch 200 innings. We’ll get his innings in there somewhere.

        Right. Somehow, they’ll need to control his innings to some extent. It might be by starting off in Extended Spring Training or other means, but I would be surprised if he ended the season with much over 150 innings, and I’m not even sure he’ll reach that.

  2. Darren says:

    I’ll take it. Optimism is waaaay better than reports that a player is overweight (Pineda), feeling pain in his wrist (Tex), or recovering from major ankle surgery slower than expected (Jeets). If we can make it through camp with no serious injuries, that would be a huge boost of confidence for the entire organization.

    • I'm One says:

      The Yankees are guaranteed to win 162 games based on what’s been seen from the pitchers!

      Yeah, I like the optimism way better than negative reports as well. They won’t win 120 games, but they won’t lose 100 either. I’m hoping for some unexpected performances on the offensive side of the field and some solid pitching performances from the 5 starters. That can happen.


  3. Mike HC says:

    I’m also in the best fan shape of my life. I’ve been practicing sitting on the couch for 3-4 hours per night all winter. Beer, pretzels, popcorn at the ready. I’m only 10 pounds overweight though, so I’ll have to work hard to pack that other 10 pounds of pure fat on during Spring Training to reach my optimal coach potato weight.

  4. Brandon W says:

    Way too early to even be considering this, but in the spirit of optimism… Hypothetically, if Pineda has a relatively decent year, with much/most of it in the big league rotation, AND shows that he’s healthy (the real big key to all this)… do you consider trying to buy out his arb years with a short extension (maybe one or two years) after the season?

    He’s a question mark, but that means he might take the security of the cash and the Yanks could really use some young, affordable upside. It’s risky, for sure, but could also be rewarding.

  5. Folley of the pre-determined outcome says:

    Pineda’s 2011 second half was not great, I wonder if his shoulder issue was starting to blossom at that point, and its fully resolved now.

    • I'm One says:

      We can’t be sure, but since it’s Spring Training, I’ll buy that. He’s guaranteed to have a great year.

      I’d love for that to have been the case. Give us 150+ strong innings and build on it in 2015, becoming something close to what he was expected to be at the time of the trade.

    • Havok9120 says:

      This argument has been had. His peripherals were actually better in the second half. The results were not always up to snuff, but it wasn’t like he fell off a cliff or the league suddenly totally figured out his game.

    • jjyank says:

      It wasn’t great, but his peripherals were pretty much the same. I think that’s a good sign.

  6. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    how does his missing this time affect his arbitration and contract schedule? any?

    • Ed says:

      When we traded for him, he had exactly 1 year of service time, which meant 5 years of team control left.

      He spent the first season on the major league DL, so he got a full year of service time out of that.

      Baseball Reference says he got 99 days of service time last year – that’s the time spent on the major league DL before he was optioned to the minors. That’s no where near enough time to count as a year of service time, and about 20 days short of the Super Two cutoff.

      That leaves us with 4 years of team control left, including this season. Assuming he spends at least half the season in the majors, he’ll be eligible for arbitration after the season.

      If he spends more than half the season in the minors, we get another year of team control, and it delays his arbitration eligibility another year.

  7. PunkPitch says:

    Pollyanna. A rebuilt engine needs a lot of mileage before you can trust it’s reliability.

  8. Oops I Crapped My Pants says:

    Its good to read optimistic reports, much better than a negative report of injury, or something like that.

    I truly believe Michael Pineda can’t be any worse than Phil Hughes if he is healthy. So that right there is an improvement.

    My gut is telling me MP will have a decent year, I;m really rooting for this kid to shine.

  9. Long-Past-His-Day-Rod says:

    I’m choosing to be unrealistically optimistic about Pineda going into this year, Cashman will win that trade yet!

    I’m actually pretty high on this team in general right now, maybe it’s just because Spring Training has finally begun but I feel the rumors of the Yankee demise have been very greatly exaggerated.

    Mostly, I can’t wait to make the drive down 95 and get to the Bronx for some baseball!

  10. Tanuki Tanaka (Formerly Bob Buttons) says:

    Just gotta be patient with Pineda. Abandon ship too early and we might lose out on a potentially great pitcher.

  11. Algernon Blackwood says:

    Until he has more innings pitched than DWI arrests I’ll remain skeptical.

  12. Chris says:

    From our position, we can only go based on what we read and see. Based on some of the pictures, he at least looks much healthier than a couple of years ago.

  13. JoeyA says:

    Love the hindsight quotes from Joe G.- “To me, it looked different than what I saw a couple years ago when he got hurt and was pitching in games”

    Well, where was this idea of him overthrowing when he was actually doing it, which led to him getting injured?

    Maybe I’m just nit-picking here, but if he looked like he was overthrowing 2 years ago and ball wasnt “coming out easy”, why did we jerk him around before he eventually got injured/needed surgery?

    • Havok9120 says:

      Maybe guys overthrow in spring all the time. Maybe no one was familiar enough with the new guy to identify overthrowing. Maybe you’re just reading too much into a quote.

  14. Silvio says:

    Sometimes it’s only the appearance of optimism (which doesn’t necessarily mean the mgr or coach is pessimistic). Sometimes it’s just about boosting the guy’s confidence with cheerful early words, and that’s a perfectly fine routine. Of course, I hope it IS actually-existing optimism and not just confidence-building.

    If the Yanks had a decent year from MP, from Nova and Kuroda a repeat of their best from last season–and, finally, from CC a return to form, why, hell, they could surely get to 90 wins.

    But on the pessimistic side of the ledger, I worry most about Kuroda and CC–and Robertson. I hope the hell CC knows what he’s doing with that svelte look.

  15. Roy Munson says:

    I think it’s reasonable to expect 100-120 professional innings from Pineda this year. I bet he starts the year in AAA and then gets called up early on and breaks down shortly after the all star break. I think He’ll provide a shot in the arm for the rotation in May/June (lightning in a bottle type stuff) but then he’ll come back down to earth and be done after the break sometime. Since he’s only thrown 30-45 professional innings in the last two years I think it’s a reasonable prediction/expectation

  16. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    But who won the trade? I mean, isn’t that the reason we’re all here, to answer that question?

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