When the Yankees traded for Michael Pineda, they did a full physical that included an MRI. When he struggled with velocity and felt shoulder soreness at the end of spring training, the Yankees did another MRI. Neither test showed any problems. When Pineda did regular resistance tests — in spring training and even immediately before Saturday’s extended spring training start — “he tested out strong as a bull,” according to general manager Brian Cashman.
All of that changed after the 15th pitch on Saturday. That’s when the Yankees believe Pineda actually tore the front of his labrum.
“The belief is that without a doubt, the injury occurred during that rehab outing,” Cashman said. “But I think it’s real fair to speculate that there was something there, laying dormant, that wasn’t detectable during regular MRIs.”
The injury that showed up during Tuesday’s dye contrast MRI is significant enough that Dr. Christopher Ahmad told the Yankees “there’s no question” it would have shown up on a regular MRI as well. The Yankees fully believe that there was no problem the Mariners were aware of. The Yankees had full access to Pineda’s medical records and there was no history of any sort of shoulder problem.
Cashman said he’s “devastated” and called the diagnosis “tragic.” If there’s a silver lining it comes in two parts: 1. The Yankees believe the problem can be repaired arthroscopically, which is a less invasive procedure; and 2. There is no damage to the rotator cuff.
“We’re being cautiously optimistic,” Dr. Ahmad said. “One of the nice features of his injury is that his rotator cuff is not injured as part of this. His rotator cuff looked very, very good. When the rotator cuff is damaged as part of the injury problem, that has a much worse prognosis and influences velocity and ability to pitch. His rotator cuff looks great and this is isolated to his labrum, and that’s why we feel more optimistic about him having a good result.”
All of that said, the silver lining is too thin to be considered truly good news. This is close to the worst-case scenario, and the Yankees expect Pineda to miss a full 12 months (meaning he could be pitching in the big leagues within 12 months, not that he’ll be off a mound in 12 months).
“There is a high percentage that players come back and recover from this,” Cashman said. “As I think Chris said, he was cautiously optimistic. We’re not going to downplay the significance of this injury, but there is a high success rate coming back from this particular surgery. It certainly could be better, I guess. If we weren’t dealing with this, it would be a certainly better situation. It could be worse if it involved a rotator cuff. But it’s certainly not a good situation.”
• As you can imagine, pretty much all of pregame was devoted to Pineda, and obviously there will be much more on the blog about it in the next day or two. I’ll post more from Cashman and Dr. Ahmad later, but we’re about an hour from game time, so we’ll leave it here for now. The very basic details speak for themselves, I guess.
• As if you needed any more reason to pay attention to Trenton tonight, the Pineda injury certainly makes Andy Pettitte look more like a necessity than a luxury. In the wake of Pineda’s diagnosis, both Pettitte and Phil Hughes take on added significance. “I believe our guys can pitch,” Girardi said. “Guys just gotta get it done.”
• Girardi said the decision to start Freddy Garcia on Saturday was partially because he didn’t want Garcia taking too much time off, and partially because the liked the opportunity to give CC Sabathia an extra day of rest before entering a stretch with one off day in basically a month.
• Girardi said he checked with Sabathia before making the decision to pitch Garcia on Saturday.
Associated Press photo