COMMENTARY | Michael Pineda threw actual pitches in an actual baseball game on Sunday, June 9.
Since the guy's profession is major-league baseball pitcher, that shouldn't be a huge surprise. But for the New York Yankees, the event was widely heralded, much anticipated and way, way overdue.
The Yankees acquired the All-Star right-hander from the Seattle Mariners in a January 2012 trade for former top prospect Jesus Montero, who is currently at Triple-A Tacoma after failing for a second straight season to take control of the starting catching job for the M's.
Pineda was diagnosed with a torn labrum in spring training last year and missed the entire season. The only headlines Pineda created in 2012, besides his injury and subsequent surgery of course, was an arrest for driving while intoxicated in Tampa last August. Pineda pleaded no contest to the charge in February and was placed on probation, ordered to serve 50 hours of community service, attend DUI school and pay a $500 fine.
According to Newsday, Pineda looked good in his 2013 season debut. Working in a rehab start for the Class-A Tampa Yankees in a Florida State League game against the Lakeland Flying Tigers, Pineda threw 68 pitches, 42 for strikes, and his fastball topped out at 95 miles per hour.
In 4.1 innings, Pineda allowed two singles (a bunt hit and a bloop to right field), walked one, struck out four and allowed an unearned run.
No, it's not a prime-time matchup against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. But, hey, it's a positive step beyond simulated games in extended spring training.
General manager Brian Cashman has said that Pineda will need five or six rehab starts before the Yankees decide what to do with the 24-year-old upon activating him from the disabled list. He may wind up in the Yankees' rotation or he could go to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre initially to continue to work his way back into major-league shape.
Pineda was 9-10 as a rookie for the Mariners in 2011, posting a 3.74 ERA and a 1.099 WHIP with 173 strikeouts in just 171 innings over 28 starts. He was named to the American League All-Star team, but did not pitch in the game.
"His fastball had life," a scout for a rival AL team told Newsday, requesting anonymity. "His fastball had good life to it. Looks like the guy I saw in [Triple-A] Tacoma a couple of years ago ... unfortunately for us."
According to Newsday, Cashman said Pineda's next rehab start is up in the air because Tampa will be off next weekend for the Florida State League All-Star Game. However, Pineda could pitch for Class-A Charleston in the South Atlantic League, a higher-level league than the FSL.
It's a small step forward for Pineda. But it is, at long last, a step forward for a young pitcher who Yankee fans had hoped to see in the Bronx a long time ago.
Phil Watson is a freelance journalist and commentator based in upper Michigan who covers the New York Yankees for the Yahoo Contributor Network.
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