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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

MAKE OR BREAK TIME FOR PINEDA

Ever since that Spring Training injury to Michael Pineda last year, all of Yankees Universe has been waiting for his return. With the expectations of him being the dominant right-hander that we saw in 2011, there is a lot of buzz around him right now. On Saturday, he finally got his rehab assignment in Class A Tampa, beginning a roadmap back to the majors and the Yankees starting rotation. He threw 68 pitches in 4.1 innings and allowing just two hits and 0 runs. He struck out 4 and walked 1. Conservative estimates are that he will be up sometime in early July.

The Yankees are looking to Pineda to be a top-shelf starter for them, and he could not come at a better time. With the rotation looking like CC Sabathia / Hiroki Kuroda / Andy Pettitte / Phil Hughes / David Phelps, and all the question marks that surround most of those guys right now, a reliable and dominant starter like Pineda could be critical. In 2011 he was a high-velocity strikeout pitcher, having more strikeouts than innings pitched (9.11 K/9) and an average fastball velocity of 94.7mph. Despite a win-loss record of 9-10, his ERA was 3.74 and opposing batters hit.211 off him. The fact that he was getting an average of 3.5 runs of support from the lackluster Mariners probably had a lot to do with it. In seven of his ten losses, the Mariners scored two runs or less. We expect much better results with Yankee hitting behind him.
The big risk with Pineda, of course, is his lack of durability and his propensity to land on the disabled list. He will have missed a year and a half on his current shoulder injury, and he missed most of 2009 in the minors due to an elbow injury. The fact that he is a hard thrower and that he tends to have a high pitch count (his career average is almost 16 pitches per inning, putting his game horizon at about the middle of the sixth inning) makes it a risky proposition. The question is, when he returns, are we getting Nolan Ryan or Phil Hughes?

Are we going to get the starter who dominates the league, or a pitcher who always had great potential but never lived up to it? If he falters, the Yankees may be better off to cut bait and make a deal at the deadline for a decent #2 or #3 starter – maybe someone of the likes of Ricky Nolasco or Matt Garza. If they throw in some more talent, they may also want to make a run at Clayton Kershaw, who is arbitration-eligible following this season, and who everyone is expecting to ask for the sun, moon, and all the stars from the Dodgers.
Personally, I am hoping for the best for him and that we get a solid, reliable #3 starter out of him. Rounding out Sabathia and Kuroda, he may be the key to a successful playoff run. With the rest of the division running neck-and-neck for playoff spots, it may come down to that one starter that makes the difference. A team with solid front three starters, a Hall of Fame closer, and strong hitting returning from the disabled list should make for a very interesting October.



--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Writer
Twitter: @KingAgamemnon
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row


 

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