KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — The Yankees want to ease the pressure on Michael Pineda.
“We don’t need him to be a 30-win All-Star. We need him to be Michael Pineda,” Mark Teixeira said. “Wherever Michael fits in, he’s going to be great for us.”
Pineda worked around some erratic control in Saturday’s 8-3 win over the Atlanta Braves, showing more velocity than he did in his first spring training start.
Again mixing in his new changeup, Pineda allowed one run and four hits in 2 2-3 innings, walking three and striking out one. He threw 36 of 57 pitches for strikes.
“I am conserving myself right now,” Pineda said. “‘I won’t be conserving myself in the regular season.”
An All-Star for Seattle last year, the 23-year-old right-hander was acquired for top hitting prospect Jesus Montero. Manager Joe Girardi says only ace CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda are guaranteed slots in the starting rotation, leaving Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia to compete for the final three berths.
“I don’t care if I am the No. 2 guy or anything else,” Pineda said. “I just want to pitch every five days.”
His fastball velocity, which averaged 94-95 mph last season, topped out at 90-91 in his opening spring training start against the Phillies in Clearwater. It improved to a top of 93-94 mph against the Braves, according to the stadium radar gun.
“He threw some changeups, which I wanted to see,” Girardi said. “I think his slider was pretty good today and he used it when he got behind in the count to get back in the count. I thought it was a step in the right direction. We’re looking at him to be part of the rotation. All these guys have to earn it, but we’re not asking him to step up to be No. 2.”
Girardi thinks learning the changeup will be a key to Pineda’s success.
“We don’t expect it to be as far along as his slider. But it’s nice to have that little weapon in your pocket,” he said.
Teixeira was impressed with Pineda’s performance for the Mariners last season, when he went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA, struck out 173 in 171 innings and had a big-league best .184 opponents’ batting average against right-handed hitters.
“I just remember a guy last year who attacks with his fastball, got you out with his slider, wasn’t afraid of anybody,” Teixeira said. “If he works ahead in the count, he can get a lot of outs because to be able to detect 97 and a really good slider, it’s tough to do with two strikes. If a hitter’s behind in the count, he can be tough to hit.”
Jair Jurrjens started for Atlanta and was roughed up for three runs, five hits and six walks in 2 1-3 innings. His spring training ERA rose to 10.38.
“I always have a hard time in spring training,” Jurrjens said. “It’s frustrating, but today wasn’t my day. I am still working on a lot of things.”
Jurrjens had a 3.43 ERA in six spring training starts last year while walking three in 21 innings. He went 12-3 in the first half and made his first All-Star team, but he didn’t pitch during the final month of last season because of a bone bruise in his right knee.
Alex Rodriguez had an RBI groundout in the first and a run-scoring double in the second for the Yankees. Jose Gil went 2-for-2 to up his average to .800. Michael Bourn went 2-for-3 with a double for Atlanta.
NOTES: LHP CC Sabathia is to start Sunday’s split-squad game against the Phillies in Tampa, with closer Mariano Rivera slated to make his first exhibition appearance of the year. RHP Phil Hughes will start at Fort Myers against the Twins, with Girardi making the trip. Tony Pena will manage the game against Philadelphia. … INF Eduardo Nunez still felt pain on his right hand when he took batting practice Saturday in Tampa. He was hit by a pitch Monday, and Girardi said he will take several days off. … The Braves will play split-squad games on Sunday with RHP Tommy Hanson pitching against the Blue Jays in Kissimmee and LHP Sean Gilmartin starting against the Blue Jays in Dunedin. … Atlanta 1B Freddie Freeman, 1 for 14 (.071) after an 0-for-3 day, says he feels fine despite a partially dislocated right kneecap, an injury sustained during a fielding drill Feb. 28.
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