When the New York Yankees convene for their 2014 Spring Training the team will have to fill a gaping hole at their fifth starting spot with David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno and Michael Pineda all set to get cracks at winning this position. Each of these four pitchers are young, talented and have had some success at the MLB level, but there is no doubting that Pineda is the most intriguing and most talented option.
During the 2011 season Pineda received his first, and to date, only stint at the major league level with the Seattle Mariners. This season was one of great success for a rookie pitcher as he compiled a 9-10 record with a 3.74 ERA, 173 strkeouts, .211 BAA and 1.10 WHIP which helped earn a spot at the 2011 MLB All-Star Game.
Blessed with a great array of pitches that included a mid-90s fastball, a sharp slider that could potentially rank amongst the best in baseball and a change-up that can be useful at times, it appeared Pineda was destined for success in Seattle. That is, until the Mariners traded the pitcher to the Yankees for catcher Jesus Montero in a deal that many thought was a sure thing for both sides.
Of course both sides didn’t exactly get what they thought during the trade, and before Spring Training was even done with in 2012 it was clear that Pineda would need Tommy John surgery. Ultimately the procedure was done on May 1, 2012, and Pineda ended up missing the entire 2012 season along with much of 2013.
The 2013 season ended up being one of rehabilitation and repetitions for Pineda as he appeared in ten games at the High-A, Double-A and Triple-A levels. While statistics are not the most important thing for a guy who has proven himself at the major league level, the 25-year-old did compile an impressive .200 BAA, 3.32 ERA, 41 strikeouts and only 14 walks over 40.2 innings pitched. Most of the scouts who saw him pitch during this season of minor league stints said that he gradually began to get more feel for pitches, better command and increased velocity as time moved on which can be expected of those who had Tommy John surgery.
With nearly two years under his belt since having surgery, Pineda is approaching the time period in which most pitchers report feeling back to their pre-surgery best. In fact, some actually end up better than before. For the Yankees this would mean bringing in a 6-foot-7, 260-pound behemoth of a starting pitcher who will sit in between 93-96 mph with his fastball, 81-84 mph on a sharp slider and roughly 87 mph with a change-up that is still developing.
When it is considered he has already been a well above average starter in MLB, began to show flashes of getting back to his pre-surgery best in 2013 and is only 25 years of age, there is little doubt that Joe Girardi would like to see Pineda pitch well enough to become the the Yankees’ fifth starter this spring. This would be a spot of relatively little expectation for the youngster where he would continue to recover from surgery and become the ace the Yankees thought they originally traded for.