One year ago it looked like Joel Piñeiro's career was over, until he took advice from pitching coach Dave Duncan in St. Louis. Pineiro reinvented his approach, utilizing a sinking fastball. It did wonders for him. He became a 15 game-winner, numbers he had not accumulated since his 16-win season back in 2003 with the Seattle Mariners.
The Puerto Rican native pitched for the National League Central Division Champions, set a career-high with 214 innings pitched over 32 games, and his 3.49 ERA was the second best in his career since 2002. He also led Major League Baseball with 2.5 groundballs for every flyball.
Those numbers raised curiosity during this past winter's free agent market and it paid with a two-year/$16 million dollar contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
Not bad for the 32-year-old right-hander who was not even chosen to be on the 2009 Team Puerto Rico roster in the 2nd World Baseball Classic.
However, Piñeiro is back on the hot seat again. Not that his Angels team is playing the best baseball right now, but there is growing concern among the team's brass about his up and down 2-4 record, 4.50 ERA in seven starts. Furthermore, Piñeiro has lost his last three starts and has allowed 53 hits; tops among all starters in the American League.
However, many of his followers think he deserves a break. Piñeiro’s first seven starts had been against the best of the best in the Junior Circuit. The 11-season veteran has faced the New York Yankees twice-the American League’s top scoring offensive team.
Pineiro's next scheduled start is Sunday against the first place Oakland A’s.
It is arguable that when you are paid $16 million you do not deserve a break and are expected to win, but let's give Piñeiro a chance.
Time will tell if he should return to the National League as many of his critics have been requesting so early this season.