(Felix Hernandez talks to Michael Pineda after Pineda was pulled in the eighth inning last night. Photo by Associated Press)
It was hard not to be impressed by Michael Pineda, who has now shown overpowering stuff in back-to-back starts. If you take out his final inning in each outing, Pineda has allowed one run in 12 innings, giving up five hits, walking two and striking out 10. He’s faltered in the final inning of both outings (giving up two runs in the sixth against Texas, and two in the eighth last night against Toronto), but the overall impression is of a potentially great pitcher being unveiled to the world.
After tonight’s game, I headed over to the Toronto clubhouse to get the Blue Jays’ impression of Pineda. I was able to talk to four hitters in the starting lineup, and they praised Pineda both for the stuff he showed them and his potential for greatness in the future.
“He has a great arm,” said Jayson Nix, who was 0-for-3 with a strikeout. “We had trouble all night catching up to his fastball. He was throwing strikes with it and aggressive in the zone – real effective.”
Nix saw enough to believe Pineda can be a standout pitcher.
“He keeps throwing strikes like that, and throwing strikes with his slider and changeup, yeah, absolutely,” he said. “I mean, obviously he did a great job tonight. We had trouble getting to him.”
Asked his first impression of Pineda, cleanup hitter Adam Lind (0-for-4 with a strikeout) said: “He throws hard. First impression, that’s pretty much what you get. I think we had our chances to score on him, but by the sixth inning he had so much confidence, it didn’t really matter. You could just see how confident he was out there.”
Added Lind: If you throw that hard and you’re a starter, I think it’s pretty automatic –you figure he’ll be a frontline starter.”
Travis Snider, the Blue Jays outfielder from Mill Creek, was 0-for-3 with one strikeout.
“He was tough tonight,” Snider said of Pineda. “He threw a great game. He was able to mix his pitches, keep guys honest. Late in the game, other than the last inning he pitched, he got stronger as the game went on. When a guy throws like that, you have to battle and tip your cap when he comes out on top.”
I asked Snider abou the life on Pineda’s fastball.
“I mean, his fastball didn’t have a lot of movement, but definitely he has good arm speed to go along with a power fastball. It can get on guys, and keeps you honest trying to sit on his offspeed stuff.”
Snider agreed the performance boded well for a bright future for Pineda.
“I think he showed that tonight, that he could handle a game and stay in there and give you seven strong innings like he did. Again, you tip your cap when a guy comes out and pitches like that.”
Corey Patterson was in the middle of the action for Toronto, getting two of their five hits off Pineda, including a two-run single in the eighth.
“He has a good arm,” Patterson said. “Good fastball. He really didn’t have to throw too many off-speed pitches. To me, we really couldn’t hit his heater. He’s tough. Very good arm. We fought and hung in there, and just came up a little bit short at the end.
Elaborating, Patterson said, “He was locating his fastball pretty good. When you throw as hard as he does, you don’t have to be pinpoint with it. He got a lot of foul balls, a lot of swings and misses. He has a good arm. He’s a young kid. He threw a good game tonight.”
I asked Patterson about the quality of the off-speed pitches Pineda did throw.
“Some were good,” he replied. “They weren’t terrible. But when you’re throwing that hard, your offspeed doesn’t have to be that great. I think he has a chance to be something special, and I really don’t like complimenting pitchers that much. He has a good arm:
Patterson was ultimately thrown out at the plate trying to score on a foul popup by Jose Bautista on a great throw by Justin Smoak. That was the key play in the game, but Patterson wasn’t second-guessing the decision of third-base coach Brian Butterfield to send him. .
“I think it was a good call,” he said. “Smoak had a tough angle, but he came up and made a good throw. I think if that ball is a little bit off line, left or right, that run scores. It was a good, aggressive play. It just didn’t go our way.”
Patterson explained his decision to not slide. Instead, he collided almost half-heartedly with catcher Miguel Olivo, who was waiting with the ball and held onto it for the third out of the inning.
“You’re not going to make it as a slide,” he said. “Basically, he was waiting for me. I’m 5-foot-10, 175 pounds. Most catchers are a lot bigger than me. If it was football, pads on, it would be something different. I’ll do the best I can, but if you run the catcher over, you’d better know what you’re doing and hit the right spot. I’ve seen some guys come up injured, unfortunately. I did the best I could. It just didn’t go our way.”