Michael Pineda is not going to pitch this year, and it’s reasonable to wonder whether he’ll ever be an effective pitcher again. Elbow surgery has become routine. Shoulder surgery is still a giant risk.
Yesterday’s announcement raised plenty of long-term questions that can’t be answered here and now, but it also raised several short-term questions that can be addressed.
It’s hard to believe something like this could happen on one pitch, but Pineda went through two MRIs and multiple resistance tests before Saturday’s rehab start in Tampa. The MRIs came back clean, the resistance tests showed good arm strength, and Cashman said even Pineda’s bullpens had been sharp leading to Saturday’s extended spring training start.
“After the one inning where he walked off after 15 pitches and said he felt something in the end, that physical exam completely changed,” Cashman said.
Cashman acknowledges that “it’s real fair to speculate that there was something there, laying dormant,” but the Yankees are confident that Pineda’s labrum was not torn until Saturday.
Did the Mariners know something?
Brian Cashman: “We got a healthy player to the best of everyone’s knowledge.”
Cashman went out of his way yesterday to say that he does no believe the Mariners were hiding something, and Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has said the same thing.
“We had full access to his medicals, which were clean,” Cashman said. “We had the opportunity to do a full physical exam, which we did, which came out clean. Michael has never had a shoulder issue nor has he complained of one with the Mariners, nor has he ever had any tests on the shoulder with the Mariners. This is just an unfortunate circumstance that can happen.”
There has long been a theory that the Mariners made this trade strictly because they knew something the Yankees didn’t, but that theory can just as easily go the other way, that the Yankees would only trade a bat like Jesus Montero if they knew something the Mariners didn’t know. As Zduriencik told Andrew Marchand: “Before the trade, he was going to be our No. 2 starter.”
Did last year’s second half raise any red flags?
Brian Cashman: “There’s a little bit of a myth here.”
The myth Cashman’s refering to is the idea that Pineda’s second half was significantly worse than his first half last season. His ERA suggests that’s the case, but his strikeouts-per-nine and walks-per-nine stayed almost exactly the same (strikeouts-per-nine actually went up a little bit). As for velocity, that stayed relatively consistent as well except for his last start when he was pitching on 10-days rest and had gone through a kind of odd September as the Mariners tried to limit his workload.
“The bottom line, they were very similar, first half, second half,” Cashman said. “The important statistical categories that kind of measure how someone is pitching were fairly close, and his velocity in the first half and second half were fairly close. It wasn’t a radical change that’s been written about.”
Cashman isn’t the only one who feels this way. FanGraphs wrote the same thing immediately after the trade. There is this notion that the Yankees should have known they were getting damaged goods, but I’m just not sure the evidence is there.
Does this make the Montero trade a total bust?
Brian Cashman: “It’s certainly not a good situation.”
Oddly enough, in some ways, the current situation is exactly the reason the Yankees traded for Pineda in the first place. Pitchers get hurt, and young guys full of potential don’t always have sustained success at the big league level. The Yankees really believe that they can never have too much pitching, and they prefered a good young pitcher instead of a good young hitter. It just so happens that good young pitcher they acquired has a serious injury before throwing a single pitch for the team.
“There’s obviously always risk involving pitchers,” Cashman said. “But obviously this was a big move that I pursued this winter. You always know, you go in with eyes wide open if you pursue this with pitching. But to experience this on the front end, it’s extremely difficult.”
Knowing what they know now about Pineda’s shoulder, there’s no way the Yankees would make the same trade again. To judge it completely at this point would be short-sighted — the deal was always about much more than 2012 — but if the Yankees could take it back, they would. And that’s not a good sign.
“Hopefully the surgery will go as well as can be expected,” Cashman said. “And the rehab will go as well as could be expected, and we’ll get a player back that we hoped we would be getting. At the same time, you can’t deny that there’s a lot of risks associated with his circumstance now and the asset that we’ve acquired because of what has occurred. There’s no way of spinning this as anything other than a very unfortunate circumstance that will certainly affect us here in 2012 and may affect us going forward. But hopefully for the player’s sake as well as our franchise’s sake — certainly I was counting on this player — hopefully everything will go as well as you could possibly hope giving the unfortunate setting that we’re in.”
Associated Press photo