Michael Pineda’s rookie year in Seattle was Scott Sizemore’s first year in Oakland. Sizemore faced Pineda five times that year — hit a home run, struck out twice, walked once — so he’s seen what Pineda used to be. During this morning’s simulated game, Sizemore saw what Pineda is now.
“It’s been a couple of years since I saw him, but today the ball was popping out of his hand,” Sizemore said. “He has different movement on all of his fastballs, almost. I think it’s just a natural thing for him. Sometimes he cuts it, sometimes it sinks, sometimes it’s a true four-seamer. But as a pitcher that’s what you want. You don’t want two pitches to look the same. Of course, he’s saw tall and lanky with his arm action, as a right-handed hitter it kind of comes out from behind your head so it’s tough to feel comfortable in the box.”
Pineda threw two simulated innings with Sizemore and Zoilo Almonte alternating at-bats. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild called balls and strikes, and determined which balls were hits, from behind the mound. There was no radar gun, but…
“I have to believe that’s low to mid 90s at least,” Sizemore said. “But with the movement, it definitely makes it that much more challenging.”
It’s been two years since Pineda had shoulder surgery, a procedure that at least temporarily derailed his Yankees tenure. Now he’s healthy again, and the Yankees are looking at him as a serious candidate for a rotation spot. Pineda has said he feels strong, and the Yankees have said they’re encouraged by early bullpen and batting practice results. Pineda threw his full mix of sliders and changeups this morning, and he worked his fastball inside, getting one broken bat against Almonte.
“Every time I caught him, I was telling one of the other guys, it looks like he’s turned it up a notch every single time,” young catcher Pete O’Brien said. “It’s going to be fun once he gets into games. … He definitely is getting sharper. It’s fun to catch guys that have that competitive fire in them. He’s not afraid to go in on lefties and on righties. He looks very good.”
Pineda will make his first appearance in a spring training game on Friday, expected to go three innings.
· Alfonso Soriano said he’s feeling much better, just still gets dizzy and feels a little weak after experiencing flu-like symptoms at the start of spring training. He expects to do some more batting practice and fielding drills and play in a game soon. Joe Girardi said he expects Soriano to play “early next week.”
· Mark Teixiera is scheduled to make his spring debut either Thursday or Friday. He’s been eased into games because of last year’s wrist surgery.
· Masahiro Tanaka’s next spring training appearance will be Thursday against the Phillies. Girardi said it’s a coincidence that Tanaka will be facing the same team twice in a row. The Yankees did not design it that way in an effort to see how the Phillies adjust after seeing him once.
· With Tanaka starting the big league game on Thursday, CC Sabathia will pitch a simulated game that day.
· When Pineda makes his spring debut on Friday, he will be splitting the game with Hiroki Kuroda. No word on which one will start — Kuroda’s name is listed first, so maybe it’s him — but both will be expected to throw three innings.
· Nik Turley, who was shut down with some arm tightness, is scheduled to resume playing catch tomorrow. He’s considered the tightness a non-issue, and said he was shut down as a precaution. No reason to risk anything in late February or early March.
· Sizemore went through sliding drills yesterday and said he felt fine. He hopes to be ready for games next week. The Yankees have moved slowly with him because he’s coming back from surgery on his ACL. He’s torn it the past two years.
· David Herndon also threw a sim game this morning. He pitched to Francisco Arcia. Like Pineda, he faced Sizemore and Almonte. Broke Sizemore’s bat.
· A few guys moving around to different positions today. Shortstop Brendan Ryan gets his first playing time at second base, and regular infielders Zelous Wheeler and Addison Maruszak are getting time in the outfield corners.
· Tanaka, Sabathia, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos and Jose Campos will do early work tomorrow. I’m sure Tanaka, Sabathia and Betances are only throwing bullpens. There’s a chance Banuelos and Campos are doing something more significant, possibly a sim game, but the workout sheet doesn’t say exactly.
· Today’s batting practice groups (in Tampa)
Group 1: Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts, Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki
Group 2: Francisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner, Brian McCann
Group 3: Zoilo Almonte, Kelly Johnson, Scott Sizemore
· Today’s second string: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Corban Joseph, SS Yangervis Solarte, 3B Jose Pirela, LF Zelous Wheeler, CF Antoan Richardson, RF Addison Maruszak
· Today’s scheduled relievers: Bryan Mitchell, Shane Greene, Bruce Billings, Fred Lewis, Matt Daley (Dan Burawa, Chris Leroux and Mark Montgomery are also making the trip)
Associated Press photos