Michael Pineda was smiling. Sometimes he was even laughing.
“I’m doing my job,” he said after today’s start. “Every day, coming here to the field and working hard and continuing doing good at my job. I want to make it.”
This was Pineda’s last chance to prove himself, and no matter what the box score said, it was clear that Pineda felt he’d done his part. He’d allowed his first runs of the spring — couldn’t pitch around an error in second inning, made an error of his own in a rocky fifth — but he’d once again thrown strikes, generated ground balls and shown an ability to make some big pitches when he had to.
If you woke up this morning expecting Pineda to be the Yankees fifth starter, there’s surely little that happened today to change your mind.
“He made pitches when he had to, I thought,” Joe Girardi said. “He got some double plays, a lot of ground balls today. He had life on his ball today. I think it’s always good for guys to get tested.”
Eduardo Nunez’s throwing error opened the door to a second-inning run, and the fifth inning was kind of a mess with three hits, two runs, a wild pitch and a Pineda error on a sacrifice bunt. Otherwise, this outing was pretty good. Another one with no walks — he’s struck out 16 and walked one this spring — and 10 ground ball outs.
What’s left is to make a decision, or perhaps simply to announce one. Pineda has pitched well. So have David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno. Based on the way Pineda was smiling, he seems confident that he’s done enough.
“Who we think is going to help us the most, and what is going to make us the best team,” Girardi said. “It’s more of what makes us the best team than anything else. How do we put a 12-man pitching staff together that makes us what we feel is the best leaving the gate?”
· Derek Jeter seems to be hitting everything weakly on the ground. After an 0-for-3 today, his spring batting average is down to .114 with one extra-base hit and nine strikeouts. “I’m not really too worried about it,” Girardi said. “It is spring training. He was off almost like a year and a half. He feels better at the plate, his timing feels like he’s closer, so I’m not too worried about it.”
· Ivan Nova will pitch in a minor league game tomorrow, but there’s no indication that anyone else from big league camp will be at the complex other than Francisco Cervelli, who’s coming down to catch Nova.
· Jacoby Ellsbury came through today’s drills with no problem. The plan is for him to play in a minor league game on Tuesday. Assuming that goes well, he’ll likely jump into some major-league games later in the week. If Tuesday’s minor league games are rained out, the Yankees will have to decide whether it’s worthwhile to put him in the big league game that night. By playing him in a major-league game, the Yankees wouldn’t be able to backdate a potential DL stint, and Girardi said the Yankees definitely prefer to have him play a minor league game first.
· Sounding more and more like Brendan Ryan will not get in another game before the Yankees break camp. At this point, the team is clearly planning to open the season without him. “I don’t know (if he’ll play next week),” Girardi said. “He does feel better today. It’s nice to see him where he can actually turn his head. I felt bad for him when I saw him at the luncheon on Friday.”
· Girardi said that right now he has no injury concerns with Pineda. “He’s shown us that he’s healthy,” Girardi said. “I think he’s proven that to us this spring with everything that we’ve seen. With a guy like that you’re a little cautious, but I feel really good about what we’re seeing physically.”
· Pineda had to make quite a few plays today, including covering first base on a double play. He looked good except for the bad throw — which wasn’t awful — on the sacrifice bunt. “It feels really good,” he said. “We practice it all the time, cover first, so I do it.”
· Eduardo Nunez made his second error of the spring on a throw that pulled Mark Teixeira off the bag. “It looked like to me he just took too much time,” Girardi said. “He let his arm sink a little bit too low.”
· Add Dellin Betances to the list of pitchers who have, unprompted, talked about how much they like throwing to Brian McCann. “I just went out there, tried to follow McCann’s game plan,” Betances said. “I just execute the pitches, you know? When you have a guy that’s been back there a while, he knows what to do. His game calling is tremendous and I just try to follow his footsteps. He got me in the right direction.”
· Box score notes: Brett Gardner had two hits. So did Carlos Beltran. One of Beltran’s was a double. Brian McCann and Alfonso Soriano had a hit apiece. … Getting another turn in center field in place of Ellsbury, Ichiro Suzuki went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored. … Antoan Richardson was the only Yankees player to get a hit off the bench. … Chris Leroux retired the only batter he faced. Dan Burawa and Jim Miller each pitched a scoreless inning. … Cesar Cabral had a 0.75 WHIP coming into this game, but he allowed a single and two walks today.
· Final word comes from Girardi: “There’s a lot of things you have to look into (for the pitching staff). The beauty of our game is things can change and you can make adjustments as time goes on. One decision that you make April 1 is not necessarily one that will be there June 1. If you have to make adjustments, you make adjustments.”
Associated Press photos