You have to believe Yankees GM Brian Cashman was one of the most satisfied people in the ballpark at the conclusion of Michael Pineda’s dominant Sunday afternoon start, second only to Pineda himself. When Cashman traded for Pineda prior to the 2012 season, parting with Jesus Montero, he did so because he was dreaming of starts like the one Pineda delivered on Sunday.
The line is remarkable: 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 16 SO, 0 BB
Sixteen strikeouts and zero walks! It’s just the fourth time in the Yankees' illustrious history that a pitcher has struck out 16 or more batters in a game, as Pineda joins Ron Guidry, David Cone and David Wells on that short list.
Perhaps even more spectacular than the strikeouts is the zero walks. After Sunday’s start, Pineda has a 54:3 K/BB ratio, which is borderline unreal. Both his 0.58 BB/9 and 18/1 K/BB are tops in the American League and second in MLB only to Bartolo Colon.
While it is still only May, it is a much better impression than the one Pineda gave when he showed up to Spring Training in 2012. News reports had him slightly overweight and more than a little overwhelmed by all the media attention. The latter was reasonable given that the New York Yankees are a far cry from the Seattle Mariners in terms of the attention they receive. Add in the fact that Montero was, at the time, the crown jewel of the Yankees farm system, and it was a lot for anyone to take in, let alone a player only in his second year in the Majors.
When Pineda suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder at the end of that spring training, an injury fraught with uncertainty, it was a devastating start to the trade. Especially when Montero broke camp with the Mariners. Instead of Pineda fronting the Yankees rotation behind CC Sabathia, Cashman’s prize acquisition was riding the sidelines and it was unclear if, let alone when, Pineda would be able to contribute. Both the GM and the player were being somewhat maligned, and they had nothing to say except to wait, show some patience and don’t judge this trade in the short-term.
Fast forward three years and Pineda has become the de facto ace of the Yankees pitching staff. With Masahiro Tanaka sidelined, Pineda had already been shifted up to the #1 starting position. Even before Sunday’s start, it was clear that Pineda was the best of the starting five. Sunday just solidified it.
Pineda is just flat out good. No. Forget good. When he’s healthy, he can absolutely dominate. Sunday proved that. All it took was some time. If Pineda can stay healthy, this could yet be the rare trade that works out well for both teams.
Montero is in the minors but putting up solid numbers that should get him another trial in the big leagues given his age. For the Mariners, a team stocked with great pitching, he could be the difference maker.
For the Yankees, a team known for the long ball---and is tied for 1st in HRs this season with the Baltimore Orioles--Pineda could, and in the early going actually is, the same difference maker. As it is, he pitched the Yankees to a series win against those Orioles and provided Brian Cashman, and himself, some vindication and something amazing to smile about.