Today, Michael Pineda will take the mound for the final time this spring. Up to this point, the young righty has started in 5 games, pitched 16.1 innings, allowed 17 hits, 6 earned runs, 1 homerun, 7 walks, and punched out 16 hitters. Although these are not the greatest of stats, Pineda is only 23 years old. Only 3 years older than me. We could have been attending high school at the same time. He could have bullied me.
This winter Pineda’s main focus was on his command and developing his change-up. That may have caused his velocity to drop a significant amount. Michael’s command has shown. This spring Pineda has thrown 128 pitches and 97 have been strikes. Adding even more command to his arsenal makes him a dangerous pitcher. Assuming his velocity will pick back up, which I believe will happen.
Velocity this, velocity that, velocity, velocity, and more velocity. That is all that seems to buzz around Pineda this spring. A scout also said that in Pineda’s previous start, the young righty had a hard time reaching the mid 90s compared to last year when he effortlessly threw well into the high 90s. This does seem to scare me a bit. His velocity just disappeared and he did have that shoulder injury. But what needs to be taken into consideration is his age (I sound like a broken record), that he reported to spring fatter, and his maturity. The weight can easily be fixed, the age takes time but not many young guns can display impressive maturity at such a young age.
March 20th versus the Pirates, Pineda started off rocky allowing McCutchen to hit a 2-run home run over the left field wall. After that inning, Rothschild let him know that he was opening up. Pineda went on to have a 5 strikeout 2nd and 3rd innings. “You don’t see that a lot from young pitchers,” said Girardi. “Sometimes they struggle to make an adjustment, but he made it pretty quick. I think he’s got a pretty good sense of what he needs to do and the adjustments he needs to make.” Pineda’s adjustment allowed him to continue pitching in the game and hold the Pirates to those 2 runs. After a bad first inning you would expect a young pitcher to be a bit shook and have trouble the following innings. Pineda did the opposite and displayed great maturity.
“Nobody throws hard in spring training, because it’s spring training,” Pineda said this in response to a question about his velocity. His change-up and slider may have been overlooked this game, his change was a go-to pitch that he can throw for strikes now. Pineda’s slider has been a diabolical pitch since he came to the majors. Girardi said this on his slider, “It’s a little surprising that he does have an idea what he wants to do, he can make his slider bigger when he wants to and he can make it different for right-handers and left-handers if he wants to. It is surprising for a kid his age”. In exchange for a velocity loss, which will come back, Pineda has really grasped the concept of pitching. The young righty understands
what he needs to do to get hitters out and stay away from what he wants to do, which in his case would probably want to strikeout everyone, even the fans.
Michael, at the age of 23, has shown extreme maturity. And I strongly believe that he has the power to go to the high 90s whenever he needs to. It’s just a gut feeling I have. Pineda will go into his start tonight with a lot to prove. Starting the season in the minors has also been a topic of conversation but I strongly disagree with that, which is a topic for another day. Pineda will be fine this year. If I’m wrong, I’ll gladly eat my crow at the end of the season.
The Yankees take on the Phillies tonight at 7:05 pm at George M. Steinbrenner Field. All eyes will be on the radar gun.