Look past the fact they lost the game, and today was an overwhelming positive for the Yankees. Because if Michael Pineda is going to pitch this way all year, the Yankees rotation could be a real force.
“I think it could mean a lot for our team,” manager Joe Girardi said. “And I’m sure it means a lot to him to be able to go out and do what he loves, and compete at the highest level. I’m sure it means a lot because he’s put a lot of work in over the last two years. He spent entirely too much time in that Florida sunshine.”
One day after Masahiro Tanaka’s encouraging debut, Pineda was terrific in his first big league start since 2011. He fastball regularly reached 94-95 mph, he didn’t walk a single batter, and the only run he allowed came on a bloop single to left. He retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced, and only three of those hitters got the ball out of the infield.
“Not nervous,” Pineda said. “I (was) excited because I’m pitching a game in the major leagues. I’m very excited today. Today was big day for me. … I’m very happy about everything, because everything is doing good and that’s what I’m looking for. I’ve been working hard for the last two years (to) be here, and I’m happy with it.”
Not much to be unhappy about, really. The Blue Jays did make hard contact a few times, especially in the early innings, but the overall performance was a little bit like Tanaka’s debut in that the middle-inning positives seemed to far outweigh the early negatives. Those two didn’t look like No. 4 and 5 starters.
“I cannot ask for anything else,” Francisco Cervelli said. “(Pineda) was great. I couldn’t wait to see him back on the mound in the big leagues.”
For a guy who had shoulder surgery two years ago, Pineda’s arm strength seemed to be a real positive. He was still throwing 95 mph in his final inning, and he might have pitched longer if this were later in the season. Getting through six innings required just 83 pitches, 58 of them strikes. Yes, the offense is a mess right now, but Pineda looked terrific; probably better than could have been expected.
“I can’t tell you I believed (his velocity) was going to be 95,” Girardi said. “I didn’t know where he would be when we got him this spring. I said since Day 1, I thought the ball was coming out pretty good. Now, we don’t have guns on them when they throw bullpens, but it just looked different.”
Looked different in spring. Looked like a difference maker today.
· Now, if you’re going to come away with a net negative about today, it’s surely connected to the offense. This is only the fifth time since 1923 that the Yankees have started a season by going five games without a home run. “I believe we’re going to hit one, I do,” Girardi said.
· Twice Jacoby Ellsbury and Derek Jeter started an inning with a hit and a walk to put two on with no outs for the heart of the order. When it happened in the sixth inning, Carlos Beltran hit into a double play and Brian McCann lined out. When it happened in the eighth, Beltran struck out, McCann grounded out weakly and Alfonso Soriano took a horrible hack for strike three. The Yankees were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. “Maybe the game is a little different if we cash in,” Girardi said.
· Soriano is 0-for-16 this season. “I know who I am, and when I get my first hit, I’ll be OK,” Soriano said.
· What’s the issue for Soriano? He said it’s basically nothing, just a matter of time. “I just see the ball good and feel comfortable at the home plate,” Soriano said. “That’s the most important. When I get my first hit, I’m going to be fine and more relaxed.”
· Was Pineda surprised to learn he was pitching at 95 mph? “Well, somebody tell me,” Pineda said. “That’s a good velocity. I’m happy with that. You know, I (don’t) really worry about my velocity. I’m a little more focused on making a good pitch in the game and getting an out.”
· Not such a good game for David Phelps, who got three outs to strand a runner in the seventh inning, but then struggled with his command in the eighth inning. He allowed three hits that inning, each on a different type of pitch that was left up. Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista each took him deep. “He left some balls up in the zone,” Girardi said. “You look at the ball that Melky hit was up; a fastball was up out over the plate. You look at the ball that Bautista hit, it was a high slider. Curveball he didn’t get down to Rasmus the way he wanted to. The inning before he was really sharp, and that inning he just left the ball up.”
· Won’t write much more about the blocking-the-plate issue, but Cervelli did make it clear that he believes he was safe regardless. “I think I put my left foot (ahead of the tag),” he said. “But I got to check the video. I haven’t seen it. I think the big picture here is I didn’t have room. At the beginning I have something, and then I got confused. We’ll do it better the next time.”
· Cervelli said he has not been told that he might get some time at first base, but he takes ground balls regularly anyway. He’s previously played both second and third in the big leagues. “I catch ground balls everywhere,” Cervelli said. “Because I’m like the 26th man (who goes in the game) if everybody got hurt. We don’t want that, but I got to do it. If he asks me to play there, I’ll play. I don’t care.”
· Yangervis Solarte was hit in the right knee by a pitch in the seventh inning. It looked pretty rough — caught the inside of his back leg — but Solarte stayed in the game and had a hit in his next at-bat. The guy went 2-for-3 today and reached base three times. He’s batting .538 and has a hit in all three of his starts in his first big league season.
· Jacoby Ellsbury is also really hot right now. He has reached safely in eight of his past 10 plate appearances with six hits and two walks.
· Last time Pineda allowed just one earned run in a start was July 30, 2011. Up next: the Red Sox on Thursday. We’ll give him the final word. “Well, my next start is in Yankee Stadium,” Pineda said. “And I’m waiting for two years to pitch in Yankee Stadium and be comfortable. I feel more comfortable on the team.”
Associated Press photos