This is not how the New York Yankees, Brian Cashman, or Michael Pineda envisioned things happening. The former Seattle Mariner made his way to the Yankees this offseason in a blockbuster move that sent fellow mega-prospect Jesus Montero to the Mariners. This was the kind of true blue, big prospect for big prospect trade that is rarely seen these days. The Mariners needed a hitter, and had a surplus of pitching, while it was vice versa for the Yankees. The Montero/Pineda swap seemed to meet both team’s needs.
Now, multiple reports have confirmed that 23-year old Michael Pineda will require season-ending arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. Any time the issue is a pitcher’s shoulder, it is cause for major concern.
Red flags first appeared for Pineda in Spring Training, when he was struggling to get his velocity above the low-90s. This was a pitcher whose fastball had averaged 95.4 mph in 2011. Unable to solve the issues, Pineda failed to make the Yankees major league club at the start of the season. He began the season on the 15-day disabled list, and the Yankees believe the injury occurred during the last pitch of a rehab outing. After receiving two opinions on his shoulder, the decision that surgery was necessary was announced today. According to Cashman, they have no doubts about the health of Pineda’s shoulder prior to the rehab start, believing the Mariners did not send the Yankees a damaged product.
Torn labrums are among the most serious injuries for a pitcher to sustain. Brandon Webb is perhaps its most recent victim, having undergone surgery for a torn labrum in 2009. He is yet to pitch another professional inning since the surgery, essentially going from one of the top 5 best pitchers in the game in 2006 – 2008, to out of the game.
For Pineda, this is a sad tale for a young pitcher who showed exceptional promise in his rookie 2011 season with the Mariners. Despite being placed on an innings limit, he finished with a 3.74 ERA, 173 strikeouts in 171 innings, and a solid 3.15 K/BB rate. Now, after such a strong rookie year, the rest of his major league career is in serious doubt.
Pineda will have a long road ahead of him to get back to the kind of performance he was capable of delivering. Certainly, all of the baseball world will be cheering for a speedy and complete recovery for the youngster.