On April 24th, I took my oldest son to see the New York Yankees play the Tampa Bay Rays at the Stadium, one of the boy’s Christmas presents. Michael Pineda was the starting pitcher and five times that day did Rays’ hitters hit the ball where Santa Claus and his reindeer patrol the skies. The next day, I wrote that Pineda was pitching his way off the Yankees with a series of dismal performances that continued during the early part of the season. Since then, I have come around to the idea that dumping the big right-hander may not be such a good move after all.
I am open to the idea of keeping Michael Pineda around for the long haul.
Sure, there is still much work to be done by him. His ERA remains over 5.oo. However, I am starting to see some signs that maybe, just maybe Pineda is developing into a quality Major League pitcher who just needed time to figure out stuff alone just doesn’t cut it. Take yesterday’s outing against the Texas Rangers. Shin-Soo Choo led off the game with a home run. Most times, you can picture Pineda slumping his shoulders with the crowd in the Stadium thinking, “here we go again”. But it didn’t happen. Instead, Pineda rebounded to strike out a season-high 12 batters over six innings, allowing just that Choo home run and one other hit to keep New York in a game they would eventually win. In actuality, that performance just re-enforced my idea that Pineda is a guy in a rotation you can have if you plan on being on a contending team.
His ERA has been lowered by over 1.5 runs since the end of May. The injury concerns that have plagued him over the course of his career are slowly disappearing. After making 27 starts and throwing 160 innings last year, Pineda is on track to start 30 games for the first time in his career. His control remains outstanding with only 23 walks and 108 strikeouts in 89 1/3 innings. This is why the Yankees send hm out to the mound every fifth day even if there were times when I shuttered at the thought of Pineda being hit all over the ballpark. Remember, he is still only 27 years old. Pitchers develop differently; not everyone has it figured out by age 24. Perhaps over the last month he has found a way to be a Major League pitcher instead of a Major League thrower.
Pineda is due to become a free agent after next season. I am not saying he needs to be locked up to a contract extension now but the idea of him remaining in a Yankee uniform beyond 2017 is intriguing. So what if he never develops into an ace? Dominant number one starters are very hard to find. If all Pineda remains is a guy who wins 12-15 games while averaging 180-200 innings per season, then so be it. Pitchers like him help win championships. Given all the all the adversity he has been through during the course of his career, I am rooting hard for Michael Pineda each time he takes the mound. I am rooting for him to remain a Yankee.
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