By Sweeny Murti
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While most of the talk around Yankee Stadium still revolved around Mariano Rivera and news spread of Andy Pettitte’s imminent return, Michael Pineda sat in the dugout Tuesday afternoon, his right arm in a sling, staring at the rain falling on the tarp-covered field. It was his first time inside Yankee Stadium since being traded here in January.
Unfortunately he was in street clothes, not pinstripe home whites.
Pineda recently underwent surgery to repair the torn labrum in his shoulder and he will not pitch in 2012. But he feels good and is eager to show Yankee fans the reason he was traded here in the first place. I had a chance to chat with Pineda for a few minutes on Tuesday:
Q: How do you feel right now?
A: Right now I feel really good.
Q: How disappointing is it to be here (at Yankee Stadium) and not being able to pitch?
A: It’s a little hard for me, you know, because I was so excited in spring training to be coming to New York. It’s New York and I was so excited! But today I came here because I want to be here with my team… and I was excited today too because my father is coming with me to see the New York Yankees for the first time. So today is a big day for me.
Q: We were told the surgery went well. What did they tell you about your rehab and when you’ll be able to pitch again?
A: I need to find out today. The doctor is coming and talking to the trainer to see exactly when and where I do my throwing program.
Q: Is your hope that you’ll be ready to pitch next spring training?
A: Yeah, the doctor before the surgery, he told me, “Hey no worries. You can’t pitch this year, but I promise next year you’ll be ready 100 percent in spring training.” That’s what he told me before the surgery.
Q: When you look back now, do you know about when you hurt yourself?
A: No, I don’t know. I think the first time (I felt something was) my last start in spring training. I tried to throw hard and I felt pain in my shoulder. I rested for a couple days and then when I started to play catch again I was feeling really good. But when I threw hard again I could feel pain again.
Q: All the starts before that last one, we asked you a lot about your velocity. It wasn’t quite what it was last year and you just kept saying, “No, I’m fine.” Do you still think now that you were fine all spring?
A: Yeah, I was fine in spring training. I didn’t focus on my velocity. I focused a little more on my changeup. I was so excited because I had a great changeup and great slider and my fastball was 90-94. You know, it’s not bad. 97 is better, I know! But I said, “My power is here, I can throw my 97 in the middle of the season.” You know what I mean?
Q: The way you finished last season, are you comfortable that your arm was fine at the end of last season?
A: Sure, yeah. I never felt anything in my shoulder. Never. My arm all the time felt really good. The first time I had an injury in my arm was 2009 in my elbow. After that I did rehab for like two months, and after that I came back real strong and never felt anything in my arm. I threw all the time, threw many innings and my arm felt great. So, you know, it’s the life of a baseball player.
Q: So the first time you felt anything was really wrong was that last start of spring training?
Q: The Mariners are coming here this weekend. Jesus Montero is playing for them and Hector Noesi is playing for them. Is it hard to see that team come in here and not be able to pitch for the Yankees right now?
A: You know, it’s a little hard. But I don’t want to think about it too much. It doesn’t matter. Michael Pineda is here (with New York). I can be ready, I can be ready next year.
Q: So that’s all you’re looking forward to now?
A: Yeah. It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault, because I want to play. It’s not my fault, it’s the life of a baseball player.
Q: Do you think there’s anything you could have done differently, maybe in your training in the off-season that would have prevented this?
A: No, no. I do the same thing every off-season. I did the same routine.
Q: So there was nothing you did differently after pitching a long season in the majors?
Q: So you think this was just baseball and pitchers get hurt all the time?
Q: Is it going to be hard to watch for the rest of the year?
A: It’s really hard. It’s… it’s okay. I’m a young guy, so I can keep working really hard and come back strong. That’s what I need. That’s it.
Q: Yankee fans were really looking forward to seeing you pitch here. Is there anything you’d like to say to them?
A: I want to say I’m real sad for the Yankee fans that want to see me. But don’t worry, I’m going to stay here. And I’ll come back real strong. I’ll keep working really hard for my rehab and I’ll be the same Michael Pineda from 2011.
Do you think the Pineda trade will pay off for New York in the long run? Sound off in the comments below…