The surprising New York Yankees begin a three game set against the Tampa Bay Rays Friday night. Despite a slew of major injuries, the Yankees have been able to piece together a lineup that has them atop the American League East. As May turns to June, they are expecting some of those injured stars to return soon. One of them, Michael Pineda, will make his long-awaited debut on the mound.
As Yankee fans know, Pineda was the centerpiece of a rare deal in the Major Leagues that saw two teams trade young stars for one another. In January 2012, The Yankees sent catcher Jesus Montero, their top prospect, to the Seattle Mariners in return for the heralded Pineda. Normally teams aren’t willing to part with their top prospect unless it brings them an established veteran who can help them win immediately. That’s what made this deal so unique; both teams traded young, highly rated prospects as they were about to emerge as major league stars.
There were serious concerns with Pineda, beginning early in spring training of last year. His velocity was nowhere near 98 mph like it had been in his rookie season in Seattle. The Yankees sent him for an MRI and found out he needed season-ending shoulder surgery which is not exactly the news you want to hear about your newly acquired young ace. Montero went on to have a solid, though unspectacular season with the Mariners, batting .260 with 15 home runs. Neither side can claim the better of the trade to this point, although that could change soon.
Pineda has nearly finished his lengthy rehab and is on the verge of starting a minor league stint. Yankees GM Brian Cashman described the situation to the Newark Star-Ledger. “I’m happy so far that he’s healthy. But he’s obviously got a ways to go. We’ll see. But so far so good.” In extended spring training work, Pineda has topped out at 95 mph, much closer to where he was during 2011. If there are no setbacks in the minors, the Yankees could have him back before the all-star break.
That’s good news for a team that has been ravaged by injuries in 2013.
B.L. writes for Rant Sports and can be followed on Twitter @coachlip