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Michael Pineda graduates to a full mound

02/14/2013 3:45 PM ET
By Jon Lane

Michael Pineda throws under the watchful eye of pitching coach Larry Rothschild.(AP)
Michael Pineda took the next step in his recovery from shoulder surgery on Thursday when the New York Yankees right-hander threw a bullpen session off a full mound. Pineda added that he could be throwing changeups as early as next week and is on schedule to face hitters sometime next month.

"One hundred percent," Pineda told reporters. "I saw the video when I threw my bullpen, and my mechanics and my motion, everything is the same. The only thing you need is work hard every day and focus on the things you have. That's what I'm doing. Be in perfect shape and you'll be great. I'm working all year here in Tampa, and I'll be ready for this year."

Pineda reported to Spring Training 20 pounds lighter than last year, admitting that he wasn't in the best shape. Manager Joe Girardi believes the strength is coming and is encouraged with how much Pineda is devoting himself to the rehab program.

"It's a slow progression, but it's a lot further than when we saw him when he left," Girardi said. "He looks good. It's unfortunate – and it's not his fault – that he's not further along so we can see him pitch in (Spring Training) games. He's right where he's supposed to be. He's throwing off a mound. We're happy about that. I think he looks good. It's a long haul when you go through what he went through."

Pineda, his 2012 season interrupted by a torn labrum late last spring, has yet to appear in a Major League game for the Yankees. His projected return is sometime after the All-Star break, but general manager Brian Cashman said it's possible that he could be back before then.  Cashman pulled the trigger on a January 2012 deal in which he acquired Pineda and pitcher Jose Campos for top catching prospect Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi.

"I've always thought about June as when we can realistically start thinking about him," Cashman said. "It doesn't mean he'll be in the big leagues, but if he completes his rehab fully successfully and knocks the rust off, that's probably a more realistic, safe area.

"Could it be sooner? Could it be longer? Could he be in Triple-A? Could he be in the Majors? We have to get in a position where he's 100 percent healthy and then it will be performance-driven. He's working hard, he's been in great shape for a long time now, so he's doing everything necessary. There's still time and things he has to complete for us to start hoping we can actually see the benefits of that trade."

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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