Pineda as No.5 starter makes the Yankees that much better for rotation

Rich Mancuso

Michael Pineda has finally arrived for the New York Yankees. The 25-year old right-hander, who underwent left shoulder surgery almost two years ago, just about solidified a fifth start in the Yankees rotation after another outstanding outing on the mound Tuesday in a spring start against the Red Sox down in Tampa Florida.

From all indications the competition is over. Manager Joe Girardi has no choice but to anoint Pineda as one of the five in the Yankees pitching rotation. The questions about Pineda’s fastball remain, but his comeback looks to be complete,

Pineda has been a question mark since that trade from Seattle that brought him to the Bronx for two pitchers and a catcher, Jesus Montero in the off-season of January 2012. The Yankees, at the time took a risk because it was always thought that Montero would be an eventual successor for Jorge Posada.

After the trade, Pineda developed problems with the shoulder and underwent surgery. He sat out the entire 2012 season and attempted to throw a ball last year in spring training.  The Yankees, until now, appeared to be losers in the deal.

But Pineda went through extensive rehab that now has propelled him to be the projected number 5 starter for the Yankees.

“We got to figure out what’s best for our team overall,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, Tuesday after Pineda struck out five, gave up no runs on four hits in 4 1/3 innings. Girardi would like to see Pineda go longer in another game or two before the team breaks camp next week and heads to opening day in two weeks at Houston.

If Pineda is indeed healthy, it makes the Yankees that much better in the pitching rotation. There are expectations that a slimmer CC Sabathia will have the velocity and have a comeback season as the ace. And though these are spring games that mean nothing, the other three projected Yankees starters appear to be ready for the season.

That includes one of their prize off-season investments, Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka who had no issue throwing to Major League hitters. Pineda, from all accounts had his slider clocked at 85. The fastball may never get back to 97, but his command and consistency throwing at 92 have made an impression.

This is what the Yankees were hoping for, though it has taken some time. There were thoughts of releasing Pineda last year when two attempts at getting a start did not materialize because there were recurring issues with the shoulder.

GM Brian Cashman, and the Yankees hierarchy would not take no as an answer. The trade to get Pineda was supposed to supplement Sabathia in the rotation and they gave up Montero who was considered a top prospect. Ivan Nova was another prospect at the time, who is projected to be a number four starter in the rotation.

Girardi added, “He (Pineda) does not look like a guy who’s coming back from a serious injury.”   In his rookie season of 2011 with Seattle, Pineda went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA in 28 starts and finished fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

So, unless something goes wrong in the next 10 days, Pineda appears to be a lock for the rotation.  And that only makes the Yankees more formidable on the mound and leaves Cashman with a smile.

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