Pineda’s injury means Yankees suddenly have a rotation problem


The Yankees have been without Michael Pineda for five games now thanks to his pine tar related suspension, and they’re going to be without him for at least another month. Pineda suffered a Grade I strain of the right teres major muscle in his back on Tuesday while throwing a simulated game in Tampa, the team announced last night. He was working to stay sharp and stretched out during the suspension.

Before we go any further, here is where that teres major muscle is located, since I know you’re all wondering:

It’s technically not part of the shoulder but it sure looks close enough to me. Close enough that the Yankees will probably be extra cautious during Pineda’s rehab given his history of shoulder problems. The perfectly healthy Clayton Kershaw suffered the same injury right before Opening Day and he just made his first minor league rehab start the other day. That 3-4 week timetable the Yankees gave for Pineda sure seems pretty optimistic to me, but I’m no doctor.

Either way, Pineda is going to be out for the foreseeable future, meaning David Phelps is in the rotation for another few weeks. Vidal Nuno has already made two starts, one because of a doubleheader and another because of Ivan Nova‘s season-ending Tommy John surgery. In the span of about two weeks, the team’s sixth and seventh starters have become their fourth and fifth starters. That’s never good, especially since this isn’t a short-term thing. Help is not on the way for another few weeks.

Despite his pine tar indiscretions and limited pitch count, Pineda was pitching like an ace for the Yankees early this season and that will be very missed. Phelps has been pretty miserable so far this year, allowing seven runs on 18 base-runners and three homers in only 11.2 innings. He wasn’t any good as a starter last season either (4.93 ERA in 65.2 innings), so it’s not like he has some great track that’ll make us feel all warm and fuzzy. Going from Pineda to Phelps is a huge downgrade. At the same time, going from Nova to Nuno might actually be an upgrade because Nova was so terrible before blowing out his elbow.

Word. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Word. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)

The bigger issue is that the Yankees don’t have their usual stable of reliable veterans to fall back on. Masahiro Tanaka is the truth, man. That guy’s a stud. CC Sabathia isn’t though. He was nice enough to remind us of that last night. His two previous starts were pretty darn good, yet last night was the reminder that his adjustment from power pitcher to crafty veteran will not be smooth. After years of being a workhorse, the Yankees might have to treat him as only a five-inning pitcher to maximize his effectiveness. Hiroki Kuroda has had an uneven start to the season and we’re still waiting for him to turn it around.

It wasn’t more than two weeks ago that the Yankees’ rotation was the clear strength of the roster. Tanaka and Pineda were pitching like aces, Sabathia was starting to find himself, and Nova was healthy with some reason to believe he’d turn his rough start around. Now? Now it’s Tanaka and pray for rain. And that’s scary. The strength of the club is suddenly a weakness, and a poor rotation can undermine a team’s chances of contention pretty quickly. This game, man. It’s cruel. Things can change in an instant.

With two long relievers in the rotation, the Yankees have been carrying guys like Chris Leroux and Bruce Billings in the bullpen. That isn’t going to cut it. The core relievers are going to get worn out in a hurry. Al Aceves has been very good in limited Triple-A time (1.98 ERA and 2.43 FIP in 13.2 innings), and even though he hasn’t been an effective big leaguer in two years, he’s a better option that Leroux, Billings and Shane Greene, none of whom have had MLB success. Trying to squeeze something out of Aceves in long relief seems like a better plan than trying the same with Leroux. At least it does to me. I’d like to see those two trade places.

Because Nova is not coming back this season, Brian Cashman can begin looking for more permanent rotation help right away. Good luck finding a seller this time of the year though. Upgrading over Phelps and/or Nuno may be more difficult than we realize, especially since it is only late-April/early-May. Not many clubs are looking to shed spare starters right now. And besides, in recent years the Yankees have shown a willingness to be patient and try their internal options before going out into the trade market. I have no reason to think they will do something different now. Adding a starter is definitely more of a priority than it was two or three weeks ago, however.

Pineda’s suspension was only supposed to be a short-term thing that gave him an early-season breather, left the team a player short for ten games, and forced Phelps to make one spot start. Instead, the Yankees lost their second best pitcher to injury while he wasn’t even on the active roster. Nuno and Phelps are actually pretty good options compared to other number six and seven starters around the league, but they still aren’t guys you’d want in the rotation long-term. The Yankees suddenly have a rotation problem and will have to hope the guys already on the roster (and the offense!) can soften the blow while they wait for more options to become available.

Categories : Pitching


  1. Pineda Colada says:

    Call up Banuelos now!

    • Jimmy Saint says:

      This, what harm could it do?

    • Nick says:

      Not really practical, but I do wish he was a little bit closer to the majors and a little bit more stretched out. He’s far and away the best option for that spot.

      I know, I know… pitch counts and innings and whatnot… Personally, I wish they would get him reach that limit by pitching full games at the ML level. If he hits his innings threashold in July, that’s fine. Shut him down for the year and hopefully Pineda is back or another starter is made available in a trade.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

        I would MUCH rather him get his feel back in games that mean a lot less than MLB games do.

        He’s still young as shit. There’s plenty of time for ManBan.

    • lou says:

      I would def call up Ban and put both killer B’s into the rotation & see what they are made of. When are the Yankees going to taker some chances and give their youth a crack?

  2. TWTR says:

    Do the Yankees or other MLB teams employ kinesiologists? It would seem that someone like Mike Marshall, assuming the reason he hasn’t been hired is because of personality issues or personal baggage, would be a real asset in both preventing (and recovering from) pitching injuries.

    • I'm One says:

      We’d hope, seeing how much money they have tied up in all these players, that they’d spend a couple hundred grand a year more for that kind of expertise. Who knows though?

    • The Great Gonzo says:

      Nope. Voodoo science. We pump it full of cortizone and rub some dirt on it.

      Its the Yankee Way.

  3. Robert says:

    Adam Warren Why Not? Betances Kelly Robertson and Thorton are more than enough and more than are in most Bullpens!

    • I'm One says:

      While it would take some time to get him stretched out, I certainly hope they consider him. Unless, of course, they feel Aceves is a better option while keeping Warren in the ‘pen than the other way around.

  4. Bryan says:

    They might need only one SP. I hate all the doom and gloom being espoused without giving our options the chance to actually prove themselves. Nuno had one very good start and one meh start. I think there is a very high probability he can hold down the fort for much of the year. He might not get you 7 innings a start, but 5-6 innings of quality work is not out of the question. When it comes to #5 starters, that is all you need. Phelps to me is the bigger question mark. Tonight (or more likely tomorrow) will help clear up some of the matter when we see how Phelps look starting again.

    • Jimmy Saint says:

      Doom and gloom? They’re a below .500 team right now with a spare parts infield, a shortstop with the range to play DH, and a rotation with exactly 1.5 decent starters.

      $200 Million doesn’t buy what it used to.

  5. Bavarian Yankee says:

    quick, trade teh farm for Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy

  6. Jimmy Saint says:

    You know who wold look good in the bullpen right now? Mark Melancon and Tyler Clippard. What a big nothing those trades were.

  7. chriskeo says:

    Don’t they get to call up another guy Monday? Or does that have to be a bench player? Pineda is still the 25th man right now, no?

  8. Dan Finn says:

    Pineda will be another Carl Pavano. Therefore a waste of a roster spot. If he wants welfare send him somewhere else.

  9. Yangeddard Solarte says:

    I have all the confidence in the world in BGDP but even he can’t be a #2 starter. The team is lacking a #2 behind Tanaka. That was Pineda, he’s gone. CC is paid like a #1 and he’s pitching like a #6. Hiroki looks cooked in April. Is it time to call Andy? Swing a trade for Cliff Lee? They need to do something because Nuno is going to get exposed after too long.

  10. mt says:

    I think Mike is correct – given the timing (last day in April), there are not a lot of starters available from other clubs. For example, why would Cubs even trade someone like Jason Hammel at this point in the season?

    The offense will have to pick up some more of the slack (that means you – Beltran, Soriano, and McCann).

    I sure hope Ellsbury injury turns out to be minor or we actually may be in serious trouble. Also JE could come back to field quickly yet hand injury becomes a nagging thing (hurts batting; may make him reluctant to steal) – will just have to see.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      Because we gave them Gary Sanchez, of course. Therein lies the problem.

    • ChrisS says:

      I’m not sure how many decent starters will be available period. With the greater parity in the game and expanded playoffs, more teams than ever are in the almost good enough bracket and fewer teams are in the no reason not to sell bracket. With higher revenues, teams are going to hold onto to their assets much longer.

  11. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    Googling everything I can find about the teres major. My layman’s opinion, from just looking at your pic, said “back muscle.” It just looks clearly like part of the lat, to me, and not part of the deltoid.

    Healthline.com gives some relevant info as to its use. It’s vital to movement of both the rotator cuff AND humerus, but the web seems to go out of its way to describe it as not having impact on the rotator cuff, which seems to eliminate it being interchangeable with a shoulder issue.

    Of course, yes, it’s close, and everything is connected (the hip bone’s connected to the….leg bone….I hope you all have that song in your head now.) It seems entirely possible, to me, that overcompensating for a tight lat would lead to improper use of the shoulder, or that, hell, he may have been overcompensating for his shoulder NOW, and that’s where the lat problem is coming from. Would that really truly surprise anyone?

    Concerned for Pineda? Sure, but who really had already gotten past being worried that his shoulder was going to fall off after every pitch? It sort of feels like par for the course, but also feels like the kind of thing you’re going to deal with with pitchers. At least it’s not directly the shoulder or elbow.

    As for the rotation? Yeah….it’s a problem. You’re going to rely on two swingmen types you had slated for your bullpen at the start of the year to go with two veterans adjusting to late-career blues PLUS your apparent stud still working his way around the league for the first time. It’s April, so no one’s selling to you unless you overpay. Jason Hammel is going to cost what a pitcher twice as good might. Your depth options are AAAA guys and AAAA reclamation projects. Things have to trend better with the existing pieces, and they have to in a hurry.

    • nyyankfan_7 says:

      We need Sweaty Freddy!

    • emac2 says:

      Good stuff!

    • proflame aberfelty says:

      You’re under a lot of false impressions here:

      Teres major is not part of the lat or the deltoid

      The rotator cuff aren’t the exclusive muscles that control the shoulder

      The TM muscle originates on the scapula just below the rotator muscles. The rotator muscles attach on the outside of the humerus while the teres major attaches on the inside. Thus it serves to counterbalance the actions of the cuff muscles and stabilize the shoulder as it moves. It’s sole purpose is to stabilize the shoulder- it’s not a “back muscle”

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

        I said my initial impression was “back muscle,” not that it actually is one. I agree with everything you’re saying here.

  12. Crazy for a nut says:

    We are down to one very good SP (Tanaka), one average SP (Hiroki) and mostly crap behind them.

    Now would be a good time for the offense to start hitting and carry us for a stretch. So far they have been subpar.

    • Bryan says:

      Has Nuno been mostly crap as a starter in the majors? Nuno has now started 5 games in the majors, 3 last year and 2 this year. Last game was the first time he didn’t get 5 innings and he still has yet to give up more than 3 runs in one start. Do you know what crappy is? Crappy is the start CC gave yesterday. Crappy is the start that Kuroda gave a few days ago. Vidal Nuno has not looked crappy. He is not going to win any awards but he should be fine.

      • I'm One says:

        If by fine, you mean “serviceable”, say, a #5 starter, I agree. If by fine, you mean a #3 starter, I wouldn’t bet on that. He’s in there replacing Nova who was our #3. I’m hopefull he’ll be able to perform at a #5 level, but certainly don’t expect anything more than a #4. CC is hsowing he can fill the #5 spot perfectly well. Long term, we’ll need a #3 (and possibly a #4). I’m hoping that materializes before the Yankees drop out of the race.

        As others have said, the offense needs to step up now. They have the horses. They just need to produce consistently.

        • nyyankfan_7 says:

          Nova was not the #3 starter; he may have started the 3rd game but he was clearly the #5. Tanaka is better, Pineda is better.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

            We’re getting too caught up in slots.

            Here’s the numbers that concern me:

            1 front-line pitcher who’s been in the big leagues for all of a month

            1 potential frontline guy with a shoulder history, now out for 3-4 weeks a month into being healthy with an upper back issue

            2 veterans struggling in adjusting from being frontliners to pitching with potentially, or definitely, diminished stuff

            2 swingmen types with not a high ceiling

            That’s our rotation. There’s not much room for error at a time where there’s a whole lot of variability going on. Not ideal.

  13. Vern Sneaker says:

    What’s clear is that Tanaka is an ace and that Sabathia is no longer an ace. Those two things are unlikely to change. As for Kuroda, Phelps, and Nuno, the sample sizes are too small either to be optimistic or pessimistic, just one month is done of a 6-month season.
    All three may well turn out to be adequate and to stay healthy. We need to start hitting, that’s for sure.

  14. Steve says:

    They just wanted to make sure he doesn’t have to pitch in the cold again (who knows what stupid mistake he would make if given that opportunity) …. one month should do it.

  15. fred robbins says:

    I am guessing the comment about the Yankees not being a .500 team was not about the math, but about the way they look—-and the way they hit and the way the infield looks with Roberts at 2nd.

    Roberts used to kill the Yankees and in my memory he sure looked a lot better than he looks now in his pinstripes. He looks pretty bad, and 2nd base is a rough spot for this team- and sad to say, but unless a ball is hit right to Jeter, it is going for a hit. I’ve seen at least a handful of would be ground ball outs go into the outfield just out of his reach. That has to give a pitcher fits and wear on a pitcher who hopes for those ground balls to be caught. So… when looking at all this- it is not a stretch to say the Yankees could be a less than.500 team by the all star break or sooner.

    And McCann… what in the world is going on? I thought he was a big time hitter. He is a tough guy for sure and I love the way he takes control…some say he has already changed his swing to work the porch in Yankee Stadium.

    Kuroda looks pretty much like he looked last August and Sept. So what’s left?

    • nyyankfan_7 says:

      I think we need to ease up on Roberts a little. He had a rough start to the year and in the last 2 weeks is batting near .300 with a .340 obp. And he’s scored 9 runs from the bottom of the order. The days of having a 30 homer / 100 RBI 2B are gone and we need to realize that. Roberts is far from the problem with this team.

      McCann has had 85 AB’s – it’s a little early to say he’s awful. If he had hit .300 and then had a bad 85 AB’s in July you wouldn’t even pay attention.

      Kuroda is a worry because of his decline last year but I think he will come around. Other than the 1st game of the year he has faced 4 tough opponents in a row. Hopefully a game against Seattle is just what he needs to right the ship.

      I think the only issue that is a major concern right now is that April isn’t over and we have Phelps and Nuno in the rotation and not the bullpen. We need to hope they can get lucky and find an Aaron Small / Shawn Chacon type who can go on a nice run until Pineda returns or the deadline gets closer and they can trade at a reasonable price.

      • Kosmo says:

        You mean like Randy Wolf and Lucas Harrell ? If anyone looked at the SP depth at Scranton to begin the season they would know if one or two pitchers were DLed the Yanks only fill-in SP would come from Nuno and/or Phelps. Then what ?
        Is it a reach to suggest NY FO was asleep at the wheel or over confident ? Maybe yes maybe no.
        If Baker OPs out tmrw then NY should grab him.

        Yanks have Banuelos on a 3 inning limit, hopefully they remove the training wheels sometime soon.

        • nyyankfan_7 says:

          So now Cashman has failed because they didn’t have 10 starters that were MLB ready to go in April? Or did he fail because he didn’t see Nova’s impending TJS?

          Banuelos has missed 2 years of pitching and has a whopping 58 total innings in AAA; you will not see him before September this year so quit bitching. You’d be screaming for Cashman’s head if they called him up and he got hurt right now.

          • Kosmo says:

            Bitching and speculating are 2 different things. I never said anything about calling up Banuelos NOW and I also expressed everything as a question mark. A reading comprehension fail on your part.
            It´s exceedingly rare for a MLB team to get thru a season with just the 5 SP they began with. IMO having just a relatively inexperienced Nuno in the wings with the likes of Billings and Gordon as the backup plan wasn´t a wise decision.

      • Mandy Stankiewicz says:

        +1 on Roberts

  16. Mandy Stankiewicz says:

    Maybe this forces the BC hand for another starter/trade, maybe nuno fills in and impresses with more innings/starts–he deserves the chance. Maybe Phelps proves himself with this opportunity. It sucks, but after last year I’m still feeling really good about this team. We’ll make it a month without big mike.

  17. Tanaka 2014 Cy Young says:

    Sigh at Pineda being out for the next month. This is really gonna tax the BP big time.

  18. adeel says:

    The Optimist in me says that he will be back by the first week in June, with a slightly tweaked delivery that wont overburden his TM again. Grade 1 strains are nothings (in my medical opinion), and going from grade 1 to grade 2 is a biggie. Had he not been ejected and actually felt this pain in a real game situation rather than a simulated one, he might have continued to pitch through it, resulting in a much greater injury. So the pine tar incident works out saving our #2 and eliminating any innings limit concerns that would pop up for the post-season. Here’s hoping we can get a month of Aaron Small from Phelps.

  19. Mike says:

    We have a top class farm system for a reason.

    Bring up the kids.

  20. Mike HC says:

    Definitely not time to panic or trade for more starting pitching. Our back end guys have to be serviceable until Pineda gets back. Any trades should be to acquire some kind of long term option at 2nd, 3rd or even short.

  21. Dr. Grenaldine says:

    I have to put a clothespin on my nose each and every time Sabathia pitches. Sometimes Kuroda too.

    The pitching went to pretty good to horrendous overnight it seems. But that’s baseball.

    Brian Roberts also looks like his head could fall off at any moment now.

  22. Jarak says:

    Pineda wasn’t going to be allowed to go past 200 innings this season anyway. So long as he comes back okay, the silver lining in this injury is he will now be able to pitch into the playoffs without any concern of his innings. No need to go pitcher shopping for two to three weeks till we see how the internal options shake out. We’ve got Robertson, Kelly Thorton, and Betances pitching well in the pen. If Phelps fails in the rotation and Warren needs to be given a shot to start we can survive that.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      I’m fine with all that.

      I’m not fine with any potential relationship that could possibly exist with the previous shoulder injury and this one, even if its an issue of overcompensation causing injury. That’s much more my concern here.

  23. lightSABR says:

    Anybody remember when Mike was talking about the Yankees maybe pursuing Ubaldo Jimenez or Bronson Arroyo, and I said it was a great idea, and several people started whining that we shouldn’t sign a veteran in case Pineda won a rotation spot?

    Turns out we were both wrong. I mean, you were obviously wrong at the time, given the absolute certainty of injuries and poor performance creating a need for more starters. But I was wrong in that I thought Jimenez or Arroyo would be an upgrade over Phelps, and so far, they’ve both been awful (6.59 and 7.77 ERA, respectively).

  24. LK says:

    Not sure there’s much that can be done right now. There aren’t any game-changers in AAA, and it’s hard to imagine anyone being ready to trade yet. They’re just going to have to hope Pineda can make it back before too long. The AL East has basically sucked so far, so they shouldn’t fall out of the race while Pineda’s out (or at least, not only because he’s out).

    Here’s an ugly question – disregarding any character questions, has it become debatable whether you’d rather void CC’s contract or A-Rod’s? They have the same length (with CC’s vesting option), and Sabathia is actually owed significantly more money per year over 2015-2017. A-Rod also had a higher bWAR in 2013. Just depressing.

  25. cooolbreeez says:

    Re: offense stepping up. I look for that once the temps crack 50 degrees and the wind gusts decrease to < 15 MPH. It is not baseball weather right now.

    Hopefully May heats up and the offense does too.

  26. rogue says:

    This will likely sink the 2014 season. Kuroda is old, CC sucks, Nova is gone, and when he’s not acting like an idiot, Pineda is feeling the effects of the long layoff.

    The worst thing is that Beltran’s crucial 1st contractual year is now a waste, making this a bad 3-year signing.

  27. Bronx Boy says:

    So what do we take from this? Big Mike is really fragile? Nothing, it’s just bad luck? Rehab in Tampa sucks?

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.