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Michael Pineda's injury will test Yankees' mettle

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports

Now that the malady that dampened New York Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda's velocity and command has a name (he suffers from a right anterior labral tear) and a term (one year, at least), it might be time to recognize again that baseball has a thing for attrition, and then for resilience.

In its players.

In its teams.

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Michael Pineda was ineffective in March and now will miss the entire 2012 season. (AP)

In its champions.

Pineda, who once was going to save the Yankees' rotation from old age and poor decisions and plain mediocrity, instead will undergo surgery on Tuesday. And if Pineda is young enough, durable enough, committed enough to his recovery and lucky enough, he one day might be that guy again.

For the moment, however, general manager Brian Cashman is out Pineda and Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi, the latter two being the young men he traded to the Seattle Mariners this winter for Pineda.

On the bright side, Jose Campos, the 19-year-old right-hander who came from Seattle with Pineda, is going gangbusters in the Sally League.

Granted, the illumination from that bit of news wouldn't light a hamster cage tonight in the Bronx, where the penciled No. 2 starter is being fit for a sling and the Yankees' rotation ranks 12th out of 14 American League teams in ERA and 13th in OPS against.

Maybe this ultimately finishes the Yankees, but it will be months before we – or they – know that. Within hours of Pineda's diagnosis, Andy Pettitte was to take the ball for a minor-league start in Trenton, so there's that. Roy Oswalt is available, and maybe he'll decide pitching in New York is better than not pitching at all. And the trade deadline will find a handful of pitchers loosened from their rosters. It shouldn't be long now, for instance, before the Houston Astros shop Wandy Rodriguez. Hell, the Yankees probably could get Bartolo Colon back right now, if that's what suits them.

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For the moment it seems the Yankees will be content to monitor Pettitte, fall in behind CC Sabathia and, to a degree, Ivan Nova, and hope for the best from Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia. Through nearly three weeks, they do have the best bullpen in baseball, though its innings already are starting to pile up, and there are few things worse than an overcooked bullpen. I mean, the smell alone …

The Yankees first were due a few hours of mourning over Pineda, and over a trade of their best prospect in years that would bring no tangible short-term result. And, should Montero get hot, it'll sting a little more if their own designated hitters continue to rank in the bottom half of the league in most categories.

For this outcome, you may choose to blame Pineda, who arrived to spring training overweight, perhaps tried to throw too hard too soon (and never threw hard at all), developed some shoulder tendinitis and then, in extended spring training, the labral tear. That's how the Yankees chart the timeline, anyway.

Or, you could blame Cashman, either for leading the Yankees to a place where they had to sacrifice so much talent in order to acquire a promising but untested pitcher, or for failing to identify Pineda's frail shoulder.

Or, you could blame the Mariners, who watched Pineda go from first-half phenom to second-half hittable in 2011, and might have suspected something was bothering the rookie.

[ Big League Stew: Curt Schilling is example of successful recovery from labral tear ]

None of that sounds quite right, however.

More likely, had the trade never happened, the Mariners would have conducted the same doleful conference call the Yankees did on Wednesday, announcing their developing ace would not pitch in 2012 and might never have a chance to be great again. (And the Yankees would have batted Montero seventh in Texas against Scott Feldman.)

"Hopefully," Cashman told Yankees beat writers, "all this will do is delay an eventual performance that Yankee fans can be proud of in the future."

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Andy Pettitte pitched into the sixth inning for Double-A Trenton on Wednesday. (AP)

The team doctor told reporters specialists were "being cautiously optimistic," and that due to Pineda's healthy rotator cuff they were even "a bit more optimistic."

Shoulders are shoulders, though, and only the very fortunate survive labral tears and live to pitch as they did when they were whole. Maybe Pineda can be that guy. And maybe this becomes the moment that scorches the season, and more to come.

For that, we'll all find out together.

But, on the same day Carl Crawford sought a second opinion on his elbow, on the day Ryan Zimmerman got good news on his shoulder, in a month the St. Louis Cardinals have gone without Chris Carpenter, we're reminded that it was only a year ago the Cardinals were to have been lost without Adam Wainwright.

And that worked out OK for them.

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