After 3-0 Start, Cardinals' Joel Piñeiro Might Have a Surprising 2009

Peter FleischerSenior Writer IApril 23, 2009

PHOENIX - APRIL 15:  Starting pitcher Joel Pineiro #42 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the game at Chase Field on April 15, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Diamondbacks 12-7.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

A couple months ago, I told Joel Piñeiro to shut up. Not only has he taken my advice, but he's had the best start to a season in his career.

Piñeiro has won his first three starts ever to open a season, and although it hasn't been pretty, he has pitched against some pretty good hitting clubs. Going 3-0 against the D-Backs, Astros, and Mets is no easy task, and even though he has a 4.12 ERA, that's fine for a No. 5 starter.

The reason for his success? He's finally buying into Dave Duncan's teaching: pitching to contact and harnessing his stuff to go deeper into games. Piñeiro says that his new favorite pitch is his sinker, which Duncan has helped him learn and perfect. He claims that it will be his new out pitch, and that he really thinks he can trust it all year long.

There have been spurts of good pitching in the past from Piñeiro. In 2002 and 2003, he had a combined 30 wins and never had an ERA over 3.78. He had a start with eight scoreless innings to end the season in 2007.

But I'm proceeding with caution. In three of his first four starts last year to start the season, Piñeiro had 20.1 innings pitched and only gave up four earned runs (1.80 ERA).

His ERA at season's end? 5.15.

All he has to be is pretty good. Pitch into the seventh inning, and the game is a success with Piñeiro. For some weird reason, the Redbirds always seem to score runs to help him out. If he can be a quality starter, the Cards rotation looks a whole lot stronger.