Yesterday, Michael Pineda threw his first pitch in the majors since the end of the 2011 season. We know how the story goes from there — the trade to the Yankees and subsequent shoulder surgery. The return he has made was on the improbable side, although he is not out of the woods quite yet. It’s not going to be easy for him to quell the shoulder concerns this early in the season, but his velocity is an encouraging indicator of Pineda being a factor as long as he stays healthy. I know velocity watches have become a dime-a-dozen for the Yankees, but it is an undeniably important litmus test for Pineda.
In his rookie season with Seattle, Pineda’s fastball hummed at an average a tad over 95 miles per hour according to Brooks Baseball. His fastest pitch of the year sat at a cool 101. It is unlikely for him to ever reach those levels again, but Pineda did flash his power fastball yesterday.
Pineda performed well in Spring Training, but the velocity was not quite there. It’s not that he wasn’t throwing hard (there were some 93 MPH pitches per TV guns), but it was far off from his time with the Mariners. He certainly could get by with that speed, especially considering how good his slider looked in March. Yet, in his Yankees’ regular season debut yesterday, Pineda took another and somewhat unexpected step forward.
The six-foot-eight righty average 94.34 MPH yesterday, and topped out at 96.13 MPH. It’s not quite as good as what he did in his short stint in Seattle, but it was gas nonetheless.
Perhaps even more inspiring was his ability to maintain velocity all game. Yes, Pineda’s fastest pitches were in his first two innings, but there was no steep downward trend throughout his outing. He still hit 95 in his last (sixth) inning of work.
Nobody should be making any conclusions about Pineda’s future with the Yankees after just one start, but some tempered enthusiasm is justifiable. He still has a long season ahead of him, with hopefully upwards of 30 games started and no missed games other than the occasional skipped start. One thing is for certain: his right shoulder is strong at the moment, and that can only be taken as a positive.