The first two times reporters asked Michael Pineda whether his arm hurt tonight, Pineda got very quiet and hesitant before sheepishly saying his arm was ok. The third time, his answer changed.
“Today my arm is a little sore,” he said.
Pineda pointed to the back of his right shoulder.
“When I’m throwing, it’s a little sore,” he explained. “It’s normal sore(ness). Sometimes every player doesn’t feel 100 percent when they play every day.”
The Yankees aren’t so sure the soreness is normal. They’re sending Pineda for an MRI in the morning. Both Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi said they’re concerned, and Girardi conceded that this injury might very well have settled the Yankees rotation competition.
“I have concern,” Cashman said. “Any time a pitcher talks about his shoulder I have concern. His velocity is down, so you put those two together and it obviously causes that level of concern. … We’ve asked him all spring, and he’s said he’s been fine. But it’s not like I sat him down now, stuck a light in his face and said, ‘Tell me now, in the last five weeks (has the shoulder hurt)?’ I don’t know. I know we’ve asked him all spring, and he’s said he’s been fine, that he’s healthy and feels good. Tonight, after he came out of his start, he talked about his shoulder being tight in the back.”
Expected to pitch close to 95 pitches, Pineda threw just 71 before being pulled after 2.2 innings. He gave up six hits on seven hits, three walks and two strikeouts. It was easily his worst start of the spring. Pineda admitted afterward that he was trying to generate more fastball velocity, but his fastball again sat at 90-92 mph, topping out at 94.
Pineda was dejected afterward, and when he was asked whether he deserved a spot, Pineda said simply, “I don’t know.”
“We’ve got to find out what’s going on before we discuss this any further,” Girardi said. “We talk about you don’t make decisions too early in camp because things have a way of working out sometimes.”
• Not exactly the comparison you want to hear, but Girardi said Pineda might be going through the same thing Phil Hughes went through last spring. It’s pretty much impossible not to think of Hughes after something like this (young pitcher, after his first full season as a big league starter, showing diminished velocity in spring training and then talking about a sore shoulder). It does sound awfully familiar.
• Girardi said Pineda’s fastball was cutting a lot tonight. It’s cut occasionally this spring, but tonight was an extreme example, and that might have something to do with the diminished velocity. Pineda said his left shoulder was flying open, and that mechanical flaw kept him from staying behind the baseball consistently. Girardi said those altered mechanics might have come from Pineda trying to generate additional velocity, and they might have come from trying to compensate for the injury.
• Cesar Cabral is also hurt, and that might have decided the Yankees competition for a second lefty. Cabral made it through an inning tonight, but then complained about significant pain in his left elbow. He was in a sling tonight, and he’ll go for both an MRI and an x-ray tomorrow morning. Girardi said Cabral had a “pretty good chance” of making the team. Now it would seem that Clay Rapada is a heavy favorite for a bullpen spot.
• It’s a tiny footnote compared to Pineda and Cabral, but George Kontos was unavailable because of a blister.
• On a night full of bad news, the Yankees actually won tonight’s game. They beat the Phillies 13-9. Derek Jeter, Eric Chavez and Dewayne Wise each had two hits. Wise’s two hits were both home runs. Curtis Granderson also went deep.
• Cory Wade pitched two innings tonight, giving up one run on three hits. He’s being stretched out a little bit so that he can go two or three innings if necessary in the regular season.
• If you missed it earlier, Freddy Garcia’s line at the minor league complex was 6.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K. The one run scored after he left the game in the seventh. “I was throwing strikes,” Garcia said. “I tried to keep the ball down. Those guys, every pitch, they swing, but I was able to get them out. I threw everything. I’m happy. I threw like 85 pitches, and that’s what I need. Do my work and wait for my next start on Wednesday.”
• Dave Robertson at the minor league complex: 2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. Robertson gave up one home run and pitched two innings in an attempt to build some arm strength. “He’s going to get a couple more appearances and I think he’ll be ready,” Girardi said. “Hopefully today was a step in the right direction.”
• Nick Swisher went 1-for-4 with a double at the minor league complex. One of the pitchers he faced was Jo-Jo Reyes. “Those minor-league fields, it feels like the pitcher is like five feet from you,” Swisher said. “It’s good just to go down there, get the motion and rhythm of everything.”
• With Pineda’s start tonight, the Yankees have finished their longest starts of the spring. Each starter will be dialed back this last turn through the rotation. Look for close to four innings each. “Each guy will be a little different,” Girardi said. “There’s nothing set for each guy at this time. I know Larry’s talked to each guy about what they want, so but it won’t be as long as this 95-pitch start that they’ve had.”
• Girardi said every starting pitcher — including David Phelps, Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell — is as stretched out as the Yankees need them to be at this point. A start at a lower pitch count won’t change that, it’s just a bit of a rest heading into the regular season.
• Although Phil Hughes is pitching out of the bullpen on Monday, Girardi made it clear that Hughes will prepare as a starter that day. Before tonight’s game, that actually seemed like relevant information. Now it’s perfectly obvious.
Associated Press photos