Michael Pineda makes his fourth spring start tonight, and Joe Girardi acknowledges that it’s time to begin truly evaluating his progress. When camp opened, the focus was on Pineda’s changeup — a pitch that’s actually been pretty good for him — but the focus has clearly shifted to Pineda’s diminished fastball.
“I know everybody is talking about Michael Pineda’s fastball velocity,” Brian Cashman said. “I wish I could give you an answer. It’s not where it was in the summertime, but I know one thing: I’ve watched every one of his starts except for the one, and I see how the hitters are reacting to him. Even the outs are soft. His secondary pitches are excellent right now. It’s allowing his fastball (to play up). Even if it’s not the power one right now that we believe he’s got coming, he’s still really good. And if that power comes back, he’s going to be great. I’m fine with it. I’m excited by his pitchability, and I’ll be even more excited if and when that velocity comes back.”
The Yankees say they’re not concerned, but I’m not sure that’s what they really mean. A little bit of concern makes sense right now, definitive judgment does not, and I think the Yankees are trying to say that they’re not passing judgment based on three spring starts. They know a pitcher’s velocity can grow as he gains spring arm strength — or even as he gains the adrenalin of a big league stadium — so the Yankees trusting the process before reacting.
That’s fair, but after trading the all-but-untradeable Jesus Montero, the Yankees are clearly banking on Pineda to become a reliable front-of-the-rotation starter, and a lot of that potential is based around a mid-90s fastball. Maybe he’ll show it tonight and questions will diminish. If he doesn’t, there will still be time for him to find it, but the cause for concern will be a little more obvious.
Associated Press photo