Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York recently reported Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi has said that Michael Pineda most likely will not return until August. His recent setback; where he suffered a shoulder strain while pitching a simulated game during his pine tar suspension, means that Pineda won’t even begin throwing again until late June. Once he does throw, Wallace reports the pitcher will be starting from scratch; as if he was on Day One of spring training. That means another six weeks before he’s conceivably ready for the rotation.
The Yankees and their fans have been patient with the young hurler, but how much of that patience has worn thin? It seems every time the team (and fans) are ready to hitch their wagon to this horse, it either pulls up lame or strays off the road to success (pine tar stupidity).
The pessimists among us are going to lament the deal (and have been since it happened) that brought the powerful right-hander from Seattle for top prospect Jesus Montero. They’ll consider it a flat out bust in spite of the fact that Montero has done virtually nothing except get suspended for PEDs while with the Mariners.
The optimists, of which I count myself, will tell you that Pineda is still just 25-years-old and has given us a glimpse of just how good he can be when healthy and smart (1.83 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in four starts this season). If there was anyone worth giving every ounce of patience we have, it would be Michael Pineda.
Wallace mentions more than once that the current rotation “boasts three rookies and 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda”. I don’t know if he was being sarcastic or not, but those three rookies (Masahiro Tanaka, Chase Whitley and Vidal Nuno) are a combined 13 – 3 with a 3.03 ERA and 1.21 WHIP (Walks + Hits per inning pitched) with 171 strikeouts in 184 innings. Since May 6th, Kuroda is 2-1 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.
If you were to tell me that four of our five starters would put up those numbers through the middle of June, I’d take it; regardless of whether they were 20-something rookies or 39-year-old veterans.
The fifth starter – David Phelps – has been erratic (2-4, 4.32 ERA) but did pitch his best game of the season in his most recent outing (6.2 shutout innings yielding just two hits against the Oakland A’s). Should he be able to build off that performance, he will round out what is a very solid “patchwork” starting five.
In addition to Pineda, the rotation that the team entered 2014 with is also missing CC Sabathia (out until at least the All-Star break) and Ivan Nova (out for the season). Yet, in spite of the changes, the starting staff ranks fifth in the American League in ERA (3.76) and fourth in WHIP (1.22).
None of this is to say that the team doesn’t miss Pineda. Certainly when he returns the rotation only gets deeper and better (without pine tar).
What the team’s starting pitching performance without him does say is that we can continue to have patience with his recovery, knowing that there are others filling in admirably during his absence.
Regardless of the timetable, I truly believe that Pineda will eventually show he was worth the sacrifice the Yankees made to acquire him. Injuries and pine tar aside, he simply has too much talent to not be successful. If he were older, I might have a different opinion, but because he is just 25, his best days still lie ahead of him.