This is the way the Yankees road trip begins, with a 22-year-old kid who throws with more consistent velocity than any other starting pitcher in baseball. Justin Verlander averages 95 mph with his fastball. Mariners rookie Michael Pineda averages 95.6.
Felix Hernandez is the King. Pineda’s been called the Prince.
“Mostly fastball-slider,” Joe Girardi said, giving a brief scouting report of tonight’s Seattle starter. “His fastball gets up to 96-97, and his slider is like a power-curveball, too. It’s got good depth. The thing about this young man is he throws a ton of strikes. He’s around 70 percent first-pitch strikes, so you have to be ready to hit.”
In the past, the Yankees have had some problems with even mediocre pitchers when they’ve seen them for the first time. It hasn’t been so glaring this year, and even if it had been, with this guy it’s hard to lean on the “first time” excuse. He’s unfamiliar, but more significantly, he’s good.
Mark Teixeira said he would look through a lot of Pineda video before tonight’s game, but he also said it’s hard to take too much out of a film session. First-hand experience is the only thing that fully prepares a hitter.
“At the end of the day, personal experience and seeing his pitches is the best thing,” Teixeira said. “… The guys’ movement, especially on a two-seamer, slider type pitch, doesn’t look like it moves that much on TV. You look at Mo, everyone talks to me about Mo, oh, how does he only get away with one pitch, this and that? Well, on TV it looks like it moves that much but in actuality, from the time it leaves his hand to the time it gets to you, it moves a foot or two. So, on TV, you can’t see movement very well.”
The Yankees are going to run into a lot of pitching talent this trip. Tonight they’re jumping straight into the fire.
“This is a young kid with a lot of talent,” Girardi said. “It’s going to be a challenge, so you have to be ready to hit.”
• Dave Robertson was very clearly affected by his trip to Alabama. Just talking about it seemed to make him physically feel that devastation. “Seeing my hometown destroyed, it’s difficult,” he said. “It’s disturbing.” Robertson left at 7 a.m. and was at the park before 1:30 local time. “It’s tough to know that I have to leave right now,” he said. “Just leave it as it is.”
• Nick Swisher is back in the lineup to test the left-handed swinging he’s been trying to fix for the past few days. “Today, come in here with a fresh mind, ready to go,” he said. “I feel good. Now I’ve just got to go out there and show you guys.”
• The only injured players to make the road trip were Phil Hughes and Colin Curtis. Hughes is out here to keep throwing, but Girardi said there’s nothing new to report on him. Curtis is doing some rehab work out here, but it seems he mostly wanted to come on the trip just to be home for a few days. He’s from Seattle, and he’s staying here throughout this West Coast trip. He’ll go back to New York in about two weeks.
• Girardi on Eric Chavez: “He’s closer, but he still is not to where he can run yet. As far as doing a lot of baseball stuff, he can’t do it.”
• Francisco Cervelli did some early throwing work, but Girardi said that’s just regular work for a backup catcher who hasn’t played a whole lot. Just staying sharp, not much more.
• Even after the Buster Posey, Girardi said he would not be in favor of a rule change to protect catchers (and Girardi’s been involved in his share of collisions). “I was always taught a certain way to block the plate and protect yourself,” Girardi said. “Sometimes you get vulnerable as a catcher. I’ve had a separated shoulder, and I’ve had a broken nose, but I always thought it was just part of the game. When you’re playing with a competitive spirit, you’re playing for a lot.”
Associated Press photos