Friday, May 24, 2013

Montero - Pineda: A Year Later

You can count me as one of the people that was ecstatic when the Yankees acquired Michael Pineda from the Seattle Mariners for the organization's top prospect, Jesus Montero. Sure, I was sorry to see Montero go...after hearing of all the promise and seeing some of the potential when he was called up in September, 2011, I was anxious to see what he could do with 400-500 at-bats. (Click here to read my take on the night of the deal.)

However, Pineda's success in 2010 tempered my feelings about losing Montero. The hard throwing right-hander was only 23-years old when the 2012 season began. He went 9-10, 3.74 in his rookie season with the Mariners, wtih 173 strikeouts in 171 innings pitched. His 2.9 walks per nine innings wasn't bad for a rookie either.

Pineda built up most of his success in the first half of the season in the Seattle, when he held opposing hitters to a .198 average. His ERA over his first 18 starts was 3.03, but soared to over five in his last 10 starts when he appeared to have worn down. The Mariners limited Pineda to just seven starts over the season's final two months and tried to keep his pitch count under 100 to keep him healthy.

Pineda's previous high of 139.1 innings pitched occurred in the minor leagues the prior season. Perhaps the extended innings, though less than a 25% increase, played into what unfolded during Pineda's first Spring Training with the Yankees in 2012. More on that in a moment.

Meanwhile, Montero got the chance to get his 500+ at-bats in the Major Leagues and an opportunity to catch on a semi-regular basis. While the Mariners limited Montero to 56 games behind the plate, the 22-year old showed potential in the batter's box. He belted 15 home runs and drove in 62 runs in 515 at-bats and struck out 99 times, not a bad total for a rookie. It was accompanied by a .260 batting average and though his OPS of .698 was less than stellar, it still showed promise. It also enraged those Yankees fans who hated the additions Brian Cashman made to the team and the subtraction of Montero from the roster.

That rage got an early start when Pineda showed up to camp overweight and then had to walk off the mound in his last Spring Training start due to tightness in his right shoulder. What was first diagnosed as tendinitis turned out to be a torn labrum that required season ending surgery and put Pineda's future in doubt.

With one-quarter of the 2013 season gone by, quite a bit has changed since the end of the 2012 season. Things have not gone well for Montero. Seattle manager Eric Wedge prefers to use veteran Kelly Shoppach behind the plate and Montero has done poorly with the bat. So poorly, in fact, that the Mariners sent Montero down to Triple-A on Thursday.

Montero has just 3 HR and 9 RBI in 101 at-bats and and just two other extra-base hits. That adds up to a .590 OPS, a number that used to be his slugging pct. alone in the minor leagues. The Mariners hope Montero can recover his stroke and his confidence playing for Triple-A Tacoma.

95-mph...that's what the radar gun read recently for a Pineda fastball at extended Spring Training in Tampa. He's been consistently hitting 93 on the gun and lo and behold, he may start a rehab assignment soon. Potentially, Pineda could be the starter the Yankees might have looked elsewhere for at this year's trade deadline.

A trade that was clearly in Seattle's favor last season, but has now evened out and could swing in the Yankees favor before the year is over.

The Other Guys

Nope, not referring to the Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg movie, but the other players that were involved in the Montero-Pineda deal. Jose Campos, a 6'4" right-hander came over with Pineda and had the infamous word "potential" tagged to him as well. Just 19-years old at the time, Campos was 3-0, 4.01 in five starts for the Charleston RiverDogs (Single-A) when he was placed on the 7-day disabled list on May 3 due to discomfort in his right elbow.

Campos ended up missing the entire season, but was able to avoid Tommy John surgery through physical therapy and rest. He's back at Charleston this season, where has made seven starts and a pair of relief appearances. He's struck out 29 batters in 29.2 innings pitched and has a 3.94 ERA and 1.213 WHIP.

Hector Noesi did solid job in the two starts and 28 relief appearances he made for the Yankees in 2011 and the Mariners were counting on him to continue his rise in status on the left coast. Noesi struggled with his control though - 3.3 walks per nine innings - and pitched to a 5.82 ERA in 18 starts and a couple of relief appearances. His strikeouts per nine innings (5.7) also dropped by one and a one-half from the previous season.

Noesi didn't make the Mariners out of Spring Training, but was recalled in mid-April and made four relief apperances before he was sent back down to Tacoma. He was recalled for an emergency spot start against his former club when scheduled starter Aaron Harang was scratched on May 16. Noesi didn't figure in the decision, but came through for the M's when he allowed one unearned in 4.1 innings in an eventual 3-2 Seattle win. He was sent back to Triple-A after the game.

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