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By Sweeny Murti
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Right-hander Michael Pineda made a good first impression on Monday. In his first start of the spring, Pineda gave up a leadoff single and then retired six straight hitters, two of which via strikeout.
Pineda came to the Yankees this spring with strict orders to work on his changeup, and this was the first opportunity to see it in action. Pineda estimated that he threw five or six changeups in his 30-pitch outing.
Listen to Russell Martin’s review of Pineda’s outing against the Phillies:
Listen to pitching coach Larry Rothschild discuss Pineda’s developing changeup and the type of weapon it can become for the young power pitcher:
Pineda came to the Yankees admittedly about 10 pounds overweight, but he said he has already shed about seven or eight pounds. So with over a month to go until his first regular-season start, Pineda appears to be on the right track.
* Phil Hughes makes his first appearance of the spring on Tuesday against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla. We have been told many times not to make too much out of the first outing for all these pitchers, but when there is a competition at stake, its hard not to make early judgments.
I have assumed, like many others, that Hughes has to lose the rotation spot rather than win it. Given the Yankees’ long-held belief that Hughes is a keystone starter for them, it’s hard to think otherwise. I also believe that all things being equal, right-hander Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda will hold down the other rotation spots after ace CC Sabathia and newcomer Hiroki Kuroda.
So why doesn’t manager Joe Girardi just announce that as his rotation? A very telling quote from him Monday morning shed some light on the subject: “The one thing that I don’t want to do is guarantee people spots, because sometimes they can take for granted what they’re supposed to do.”
That is Girardi telling you he learned from what happened in 2008 when the Yankees handed spots to Hughes, Ian Kennedy and right-hander Joba Chamberlain. Hughes also came out of the gate slow in 2011 when his rotation spot was not in doubt.
The Yankees believe that Hughes can still be a top-flight starter. After all, he went to the All-Star Game just two years ago and is still only 25 years old. But maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that his two best years (2009 and 2010) came in years when his role wasn’t determined going into camp.
And there is no reason to make the same mistake with young pitchers like Nova and Pineda, either.
Will Pineda be able to make the transition from the AL West to the AL East? Let us know below…