(Michael Pineda pitches againts the Phillies today in Florida. Photo by Associated Press).
Former Mariners pitcher Michael Pineda, now with the Yankees, went through two rites of passage today. He was the subject of a scathing article in the New York Post, then made his Yankees’ debut in an exhibition game against the Phillies.
Readers of the Post woke up to this article, by George A. King III, headlined, “Overweight Pineda isn’t lock for Yankees rotation.” Let me note that George King has ably covered the Yankees for about 15 years, is well respected in the business (and by the Yankees organization, as far as I can tell), and is not your stereotypical New York hatchet man. He can be tough, no doubt, but not recklessly.
This is a tough piece, beginning with the first sentence: “What we know of Michael Pineda in the brief time he has been with the Yankees can’t be viewed as encouraging.”
He notes that Pineda — acquired from the Mariners in the Jesus Montero trade — arrived in camp at 280 pounds, 10 pound more than last year. And he points out that Pineda lacks a third pitch, which is not breaking news to Mariners fans. Pineda’s quest for a consistent changeup has been ongoing, but the absence of one didn’t stop him from making the All-Star team last year and having an often dominant rookie year.
The article quotes ex-Mariner Freddy Garcia saying Pineda is a bit overwhelmed by the big, bad New York media. It paints a picture of Pineda battling with three others for three rotation spots behind CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. As an aside, I would note that Sabathia has done quite well with girth approaching (and perhaps surpassing) 300 pounds. But King says Pineda is not, as the headline gives away, a lock for the rotation. (Another aside: If Pineda doesn’t start the season in the Yankees rotation by any other reason than injury, I’ll be absolutely shocked).
George concludes by wondering, ominously, why the Mariners got rid of a pitcher like Pineda, and writes: “Ten pounds heavier. One pitch short. That’s what we know so far about Pineda.”
Well, now they now a little more. Pineda worked two scoreless innings against the Phillies this afternoon, giving up just one hit with no walks. He struck out one, threw a lot of changeups, and generally aquitted himself well. King strikes a positive tone in this blog post, in which he says Pineda’s fastball was clocked between 89 and 91. Joe Girardi says the weight is coming off, and “we will get to where we need to be. His work ethic has been great.” Here’s another account of Pineda’s outing, with an assessment by an anonymous scout, and more information on Pineda’s work to develop his changeup.
I’m 3,000 miles away, but what I saw from Pineda last year is that he’s a really good kid, very conscientious. It wasn’t wise to report to his first Yankees camp with 10 extra pounds, but I hardly think it’s indicative of any kind of attitude or work-ethic problem — more like a youthful indescretion. Remember, Pineda is barely one month past his 23rd birthday. I think he’ll be fine. I think he’ll be a very good pitcher for the Yankees. But Pineda had better get used to the increased scrutiny he’s going to receive in New York, which has now officially begun.