|photo courtesy of usatoday.com|
Michael Pineda's Major League career has been and up and down journey threw injuries, pine tar suspensions, and high expectations. There was a lot of outrage among Yankees fans in January, 2012 when he was acquired for the Yankees top hitting prospect Jesus Montero. Fans had heard for so long that Montero would be an offensive superstar, the deal came as a shock, even to those of who liked the idea of obtaining Pineda from Seattle. (Keep in mind I was also thrilled when the Yankees acquired Jeff Weaver.)
The outrage got amped up when Pineda missed all of 2012 and 2013, due to shoulder surgery, without ever having thrown a baseball in a Yankees regular season game. Meanwhile in Seattle, Montero hit 15 home runs and drove in 62 runs for the 2012 Mariners in his first full season in the Majors.
Much has changed since then though and on a sunny, Mother's Day in the Bronx on Sunday, Pineda made it clear who the trade has worked out better for in the long run. The 26-year old struck out 16 Baltimore Orioles in a 7-inning stint as the Yankees won their 20th game of the season. (The team's best 32-game start since 2010.)
Due to injuries, Pineda was limited to 76.1 innings in 2014, but posted a 1.89 ERA and struck out seven batters per nine innings. With the 6-2 win over Baltimore, Pineda raised his record to 5-0, lowered his ERA to 2.72 and raised his K's per nine innings to 10.49. Montero, meanwhile, waits for his call at Triple-A Tacoma, a season after he had a dispute with a team scout who sent ice cream during a game to the out-of-shape Montero.
With injuries to Ivan Nova and Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia not pitching like the ace he once was, Pineda has become the de facto ace of the team. The Yankees are 6-1 in Pineda's seven starts, 14-11 when someone else has toed the rubber in the 1st inning. Pineda's most remarkable stat has to be the 18:1 strikeout to walk ratio he has posted in 46.1 innings. He has issued just three free passes this season and only one in his last four starts.
Pineda tied David Cone for the team record for strikeouts by a right-handed pitcher in a single start.