In 2011, 24-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda was one of the most impressive young pitchers in the game. Armed with a mid-to-high 90’s fastball and a hard slider, he earned himself a spot in the All-Star Game in his rookie season with the Seattle Mariners. In nearly half of his 28 starts, he struck out seven or more batters and pitched six or more innings in 22 of them.
This convinced the New York Yankees that they could trade the highly touted Jesus Montero for him.
It’s 2013, and they are still waiting for the man who, due to his gigantic 6-foot-7, 265-pound structure, General Manager Brian Cashman calls the “right-handed version of CC [Sabathia]” to throw a pitch in pinstripes.
After suffering through nagging shoulder injuries in Spring Training that led to season-ending surgery in 2012, Pineda is nearing closer to a return. In his first rehab start since his shoulder surgery, he had precision, throwing strikes on 42 of 68 pitches and his fastball, reaching as high as 94 on Sunday in Tampa. It is just one rehab start, and there are at least five others he will go through, but it is an encouraging sign.
If the Yankees are getting the 2011 version of Pineda, it could be a season-shifting acquisition. Yes, the 2013 Yankees through 63 games have the best ERA in the American League. However, you really can never have too much pitching, and if they do believe David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, Ivan Nova, and Phil Hughes are clogging up the back end of the starting rotation, they can use one of those guys as bait during the trade deadline to obtain an outfielder or a more talented shortstop if Derek Jeter can’t come back or is limited when he does return.
Pineda has definitely been and will continue to be brought along slowly in his rehab. Although, if his return is successful, he can be the second ace that Cashman envisioned him to be and impact the future formation of the Yankees roster.