One-by-one, the pitchers in this morning’s first bullpen group began wrapping up. CC Sabathia was the first to finish, and after his final pitch, the Yankees ace gave Francisco Cervelli a familiar handshake.
But there was something different about the way Michael Pineda finished.
It was Russell Martin’s first time catching the new Yankees right-hander, and after Pineda’s final pitch, Martin offered an enthusiastic fist bump, followed by an animated discussion that — even from a distance — was clearly all about the movement on Pineda’s pitches.
“He looked pretty happy about it, too,” Martin said. “You could tell he’s been working on the changeup. Larry (Rothschild) was saying that he’s changed the grip a little bit, and it’s working. We’ll see how hitters react to it, but from my perspective, it looked like a pretty good pitch. His slider is a plus slider. Everybody knows he’s got a live arm.”
Joe Girardi watched the session from the back of the bullpen.
“You’ve got another guy that’s 6-8 out there, and obviously he’s got a very good arm,” Girardi said. “I saw a couple of his sliders today and I was like, wow. For this time of the spring it’s pretty good.”
So far, the Yankees seem impressed by their new trade acquisition. Truth be told, it seems Martin didn’t have particularly high expectations coming into this morning’s bullpen. Afterward, in the clubhouse, the Yankees catcher was raving about what he’d seen.
“We had a short sample (last season),” Martin said. “We just saw him one game. He was a little erratic that game and got himself in trouble walking guys, so I was expecting to see a guy that didn’t have great command. I was wrong. He was commanding his fastball down in the zone. Joe gave me a call this offseason and said, ‘We’ve got to get this guy to work on his changeup,’ and obviously he has worked on his changeup because what I saw was a good changeup.
“The first couple, he was on the side of them, which means they were kind of tailing. Movement on a pitch is a good thing, but it’s kind of hard to control. When he was staying on top of the ball, down and through it and throwing it off the same plane as the fastball, that’s what gives deception to the hitter. He was able to, after throwing a couple the wrong way, he made an adjustment right away and was keeping it down in the zone and on the same plane. The guy is a quick learner and he’s able to make adjustments on the mound. That’s pretty impressive for a young guy.”
Associated Press photo