If Michael Pineda got sent back to the minor leagues, it would only be a reminder that the Yankees hold people accountable
I was asked by a talk-show host the other day what I would think if the Yankees sent Michael Pineda back to the minor leagues. I’m pretty sure he was looking for a larger statement, a pronouncement that Brian Cashman had gotten fleeced in the Jesus Montero deal or something like that.
First, it’s way, way too soon to know what Michael Pineda is going to be. He’s all of 23 years old and has made 28 Major League starts. He was absolutely dominant at times last season, and there were other times when he seemed completely out of gas. To have long-term success, he’s going to have to polish his change-up.
Cashman made the deal knowing all those things. He made it anyway because Pineda has shown the ability to throw close to 100 mph. There are things pitchers can be taught to do, and things they can’t be taught. But throwing hard can’t be coached. Guys who can do that are really special.
Pineda has plenty of time to be one of the all-time greats. He could also be one of the all-time busts. One of the things that made the Montero-Pineda trade so interesting is that both general managers traded players they absolutely love. Cashman said at the time of the deal that he was aware he’d traded a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter. He also said that if Pineda couldn’t polish his change-up, he might not have a great career.
How often do you get a deal like that to chew on? Two good, young players dealt for one another, with one general manager saying right up front he walked into the thing knowing there was a chance he’d end up on the wrong side of it. There’ll eventually be a scorecard on this trade, but it could be years away. Meanwhile, we’ll have a lot of time to evaluate, second-guess and bloviate.
Pineda has not been great this spring. His ERA is a respectable 3.31, but he has allowed 24 base runners in 16 1/3 innings. At times, scout say his velocity has been down around 91 mph. I’m not sure if there’s a reason for concern, in part, because spring pitching statistics sometimes mean nothing.
Some general managers would keep Pineda in their rotation regardless of how he pitched this spring. To do otherwise would open themselves up to second-guessing. Life is different around the Yankees. They have depth in the rotation, and best of all, they hold people accountable.
This spring began with only two Yankees–C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda–who were locks for the rotation. Phil Hughes certainly has pitched well enough claim one of the five spots, and Freddie Garcia has performed better than Ivan Nova and Pineda. If the decision is based strictly on performance, Pineda would get the final spot over Nova.
Regardless, it’s a long season. Andy Pettitte hopes to figure into the mix in early May, and then Cashman and Joe Girardi would face more tough decisions. In the end, though, it’s a good thing. At a time when a bunch of teams are finishing the spring in search of pitching, the Yankees don’t have a place for all their competent starters. That’s the kind of problem that’s far better than the alternative.