With New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda set to begin his rehab assignment on Saturday, Yankees fans finally have a reason to get excited over the 24-year-old right-hander.
Pineda, who was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in the offseason prior to the 2012 season, has the potential to be one of the games elite young pitchers.
In his only season in the majors, Pineda shined, making the All-Star team. He went on to strikeout over a batter an inning, punching out 173 in 171 innings, while posting a 1.08 WHIP, which is rare for a starting pitcher. To put this in context, Yankee starter C.C. Sabathia has never struck out over a batter an inning or had a WHIP that low ever in his 13-year career. Pineda did both in his rookie season at the age of just 22.
With Pineda now in his mid-20’s and coming off a torn labrum which sidelined him all of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, the 6-foot-7-inch starter has the opportunity to get back to establishing himself as not just one of the games best young arms, but one of the best arms period. This is what Yankee GM Brian Cashman had in mind when he acquired Pineda for who was, at the time, one of the games elite young bats, Jesus Montero.
All reports from the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa, where Pineda has been throwing since March, is that the Yankees brass is very pleased with what they’ve seen. Pineda’s mid 90’s velocity has reportedly resurfaced, after mysteriously disappearing in Spring Training in 2012. If his fastball is touching 93-95 mph now, I would suspect there is another gear that he has yet to get to, which if we don’t see in his rehab assignment, we certainly will in the Bronx.
Of course, Pineda is going to have to get through this rehab assignment over the next month or so healthy before he can begin setting his sights at the MLB-level. However, if he excels, the buzz will start to begin on what Pineda can bring to a Yankees club who is in a very tight AL East divisional race.
Currently, the Yankees rotation is extremely deep, going about seven arms deep. It’ll be interesting to see how or where Pineda fits in. As I’ve contended in the past, the Yankees are in a position where trading Phil Hughes or putting him in the bullpen may be the best option for both he and the club. This depth does allow the Yankees to take their time with Pineda. However, if he performs in his rehab assignment the way he’s capable, an opening will have to be made.
The Yankees, however, will gain an extra year of control over the right-hander if he’s optioned to Triple-A once his rehab stint is completed.
You better believe Cashman is itching to get Pineda to the Bronx, as he has a lot riding on the impact and success he has moving forward.