Ivan Nova did it on Sunday, and Michael Pineda did it tonight. It was a mid-game adjustment that took him from a rocky, behind-in-the-count first inning to those dominant, five-strikeout second and third innings. Larry Rothschild told him his left shoulder was opening a little bit, and Pineda made the change.
“You don’t see that a lot from young pitchers,” Joe Girardi said. “Sometimes they struggle to make an adjustment, but he made it pretty quick. I think he’s got a pretty good sense of what he needs to do and the adjustments he needs to make. That’s good. You’ve got to know how to correct things when you’re struggling.”
It was that long first inning that limited Pineda to just three innings today, but Girardi said in the regular season, he could see Pineda working much deeper in a game like this. “You think he’s found it and he can continue to move on,” Girardi said.
For Pineda, the outing was encouraging. He gave up the two runs on a homer by Andrew McCutchen. Pineda had tried to put McCutchen away with fastballs, and when that didn’t work, he went to the slider. McCutchen was ready for it and took it out to left field. From there, Pineda struck out the side in the second inning, then struck out the last two batters in the third.
“Attack the first pitch strike and attack the hitter,” he said. “Threw a strike early, now I feel comfortable. Make a good pitch and got (outs).”
• Here’s Andy Pettitte on today’s bullpen: “It felt good. Obviously I’m further along than I normally would be with my first bullpen because I’ve been throwing a little bit more. I felt good. I think I threw 50 pitches or something like that and it felt good. I threw Tuesday here and Friday at home, so I really just feel like I’m progressing. My location was a lot better today than it has been in any of the pens that I’ve thrown. I really feel good about it.”
• Nick Swisher came out of the game in the second inning after feeling something “grab” in his right groin. He was playing for the first time since feeling the same thing in his left groin last Wednesday. “Maybe I’m a little tight in that area,” he said. “Maybe we need to loosen that area up a little bit, maybe back of the weights a touch.” Swisher wasn’t expecting any tests and expects the same thing as last time — roughly a week of rest — before he’s back in a game.
• Swisher reported to camp in great shape and said the training staff wonders whether some of his leg muscles are simply a little tighter than he’s used to. “If it’s Game 7, I’m in there,” he said. “I’ve been able to deal with pain my whole career. It’s frustrating, because I came into camp in the best shape of my life. One thing happens, now another thing happens. We just have to get the body all lined up as one.”
• Neither Swisher nor Girardi knew whether any tests would be scheduled. Swisher didn’t think they would be necessary.
• The YES gun had Pineda reaching 94 mph with his fastball, and he seemed to throw more 92-93 mph fastballs than we’ve seen in the past three spring starts. “I know I can throw harder,” Pineda said. “But it’s getting better. My arm feels good. My body is feeling good.”
• Pineda on whether Pettitte’s arrival affects his status in the rotation: “I don’t have the control for the situation so I don’t know. It’s good to compete and that’s it. … I want to talk to him and I want to learn from him.”
• Shame this team doesn’t seem to have a spot for Justin Maxwell. He looks terrific this spring. His average is up to .429 after a 2-for-2 night with two doubles, two RBI and a walk.
• The Yankees do have a spot for Curtis Granderson who’s terrific spring continued with a 2-for-2 night that included a double, two walks and three runs. Alex Rodriguez also had two hits in the 10-3 win.
• The Yankees scored five runs in the third inning, all with two outs. Russell Martin had doubled to lead off the inning, and with two outs, the Pirates walked three straight batters before Rodriguez singled in two runs, Mark Teixeira singled in another and Andruw Jones doubled in one more.
• Robinson Cano was the only healthy Yankees starter who didn’t have a hit. Slacker.
• Boone Logan, Juan Cedeno, George Kontos and Branden Pinder — who might not have pitched if not for Pineda’s first-inning struggles — each threw a scoreless inning. Cory Wade allowed one run on three hits and two strikeouts in the sixth.
• Former Yankees prospect Dan McCutchen pitched a scoreless sixth for the Pirates and has a 1.93 ERA this spring. Another former Yankees prospect, Jose Tabata, went 2-for-3 for Pittsburgh.
• Finally, on Sunday night I drove to Sarasota with Star-Ledger beat writer Marc Carig. On the way to the game we talked about his mother, who was struggling through what Marc already knew to be the late stages of pancreatic cancer. Marc found out immediately after the game that his mother had passed away. She’d gone much sooner than expected, but on the drive back to Tampa, Marc was as courageous as anyone could be in such a moment. That bravery came directly from his mother. If you get a chance, click that link and read Marc’s moving tribute. I’m lucky to call him one of my closest friends, and he was lucky to have such a courageous and selfless mother.
Associated Press photos