Michael Pineda Quiets Some Concerns in Tampa

Questions about his weight and changeup get positive answers

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Pineda's first outing showed change the Yankees could believe in.

    It didn't take long for Michael Pineda to figure out the difference between playing in Seattle and playing in New York.

    With the Mariners, it was enough to be a phenom whose work as an unexpected rookie in the rotation held great promise for the years to come. The Yankees care about what Pineda will be in 2013 and 2014, obviously, but they also want him to be a big part of their push for a World Series this season.

    So his arrival at camp was met with questions about extra weight around his midsection as well as a focus on improving his changeup instead of playing up all the positives that came in his right arm. Those initial question marks grew into full-fledged concerns and amped up what would normally be a meaningless two innings of work in his spring debut.

    Pineda pitched well in his two innings of work and that's led to rave reviews from all corners. He's already dropped some of the weight and his changeup worked well enough to get him out of trouble when it did bubble up.

    The outing wasn't totally without concern as Pineda's velocity was down sharply from where it was with Seattle last season, although Pineda shrugged off the drop as a byproduct of focusing on his command and the changeup. Those with long memories will surely remember Phil Hughes saying similar things last year when he showed up to camp overweight and working on a third pitch while dealing with less speed on his pitches.

    Making any assumptions based on one outing is silly, but we're used to such silliness around these parts. The end result was that there was more good than bad and that's just about all you can ask for in early March.

    Still, Joe Girardi is talking about Pineda as one of four candidates for three rotation spots behind CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda which is odd given the price paid to bring him to the Bronx. Is that just a case of lowering expectations or is there really a chance the Yankees will go with Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Hughes?

    The only reason to do it would be to stop the clock on Pineda's service time by sending him to the minors and then bringing him back to the big leagues down the road. That would give the Yankees an extra year of control over Pineda while giving him time to work on the changeup and anything else they think needs improving.

    It's too early to say how likely that course of action might be, but it doesn't seem like the best route for the Yankees to take. Going with young pitchers, something the Yankees will have to do if they are truly committed to the more austere scenario Hal Steinbrenner laid out last week, means taking a few lumps while they improve and learn how to succeed at the big league level.

    Pineda's given no indication that it will be a problem for him to do that at this point. The Yankees shouldn't assume it will become one until Pineda gives them more of a reason.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.