After an offseason that saw the Yankees spend over half a billion dollars, there are plenty of new faces in the Bronx as this team prepares to make a run at their 28th World Series championship.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka were the biggest acquisitions. Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson signed on as well. Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira are back and healthy. Yet, it is another player on this roster who could have a major impact on this ball club.
On January 13, 2012 the Yankees sent top-prospect Jesus Montero, along with pitchers Jose Campos and Hector Noesi, to the Seattle Mariners for starter Michael Pineda. Now, two years later, Pineda is healthy and ready to show the Yankees that their patience will pay off.
Pineda was impressive in his rookie season with the Mariners in 2011, going 9-10 with a 3.74 E.R.A in 28 starts. In 171 innings pitched, he struck out 173 batters while only walking 55. He was named to the American League All-Star team and finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting.
It has been two years since Pineda last stepped on a major league mound. Shoulder injuries had kept him off the field, but this spring the Yankees gave him a chance to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation. Pineda seized the opportunity, putting up a 1.20 E.R.A. in 15 innings while striking out 16. He also saw his fastball hit 94 mph. He was the clear choice for the job.
When Joe Girardi was asked about his decision, he kept it simple.
"He threw extremely well," Girardi said according to David Waldstein of The New York Times. "It was what we wanted to see from him. He improved with each outing, and at times was dominant. We really liked what we saw."
Upon hearing the news, Pineda seemed confident and ready to go.
“Everybody is excited because they know I’ve been working hard for the last two years and I want to go back to the majors,” Pineda told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.
He also talked about how he has had a chance to grow and mature as both a person and a player over the past two years.
"I'm a young guy, but I've grown a lot," he said.
This season, the Yankees are eager to see how that growth and maturity will translate to the field. At 6'7" and 265 lbs, Pineda is quite the imposing sight on the mound. Add a heater like his, a slider that McCann called "un-hittable" in Spring Training and a clean bill of health—this kid has all the upside in the world. He just needs to stay healthy.
If he can, the Yankees might just have one of the best No. 5 starters in the game. The talent, skill and mindset that Pineda will need to succeed are all there.
In the end, it is going to come down to his ability to stay on the field and contribute.
All stats were obtained via Baseball Reference.