Yankees postgame notebook: Pineda finding the right path back

03/13/2014 7:05 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Jacoby Ellsbury hit his first home run of Spring Training on Thursday.(AP)
TAMPA, Fla. -- Michael Pineda's velocity still isn't where it was before he hurt his shoulder in 2012, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi admitted that Pineda's fastball command wasn't as good Thursday as it was in his first spring outing.

However, that's okay with both of them, especially as long as Pineda continues to do two things: feel good and pitch well on the whole.

"It was my second outing and I threw the ball good. In the last inning I was working a little bit quicker and trying to make adjustments," Pineda said after striking out five in 2 2/3 scoreless innings. "I don't know what my velocity was, but it feels good. I'm letting it go. The best thing is my shoulder is feeling good, and that's where I want to be. I want to be able to pitch and compete."

"I thought he struggled a bit with fastball command, but I thought he did okay," Girardi added. "When you think about a guy when he's missing with his command - he was missing down all the time, and you don't get in as much trouble when you miss down."

Pineda threw 48 pitches, mixing in more breaking balls and changeups along with his fastball, and said he felt much more confident in his changeup because it's moving better than it ever has. He also got a lot of swing-and-miss strikes, which is never a bad thing.

"That's what I'm looking for. That's good, I'm happy with that," he said. "They did a lot of swing and miss because I'm making good pitches."

Girardi agreed, citing Pineda's secondary pitches.

"I thought his slider and changeup were pretty good today, and that's what helped him. He had the ability to get outs when he needed to," the skipper said. "He's got deception, and he's locating the ball, and it's hard to pick up."

"His stuff was there, and he struck a guy out on a 3-2 slider…he mixed it up really well today," added catcher Brian McCann. "His breaking ball is however you want to interpret it. It's a little bit slower than a true slider, but I think that when he tries to get ahead it's going to be a little slower, and when he's trying to put someone away it's going to be a little harder."

Decreased velocity or not, that secondary arsenal will be huge, but Pineda is confident the speed will come, saying that "pitching my game is important to me right now."

Girardi agreed, saying Pineda looks like he's getting closer, and as McCann put it, there's other ways to know when everything looks like it's headed in the right direction.

"He looks great. He's working downhill, and when you throw a 3-2 slider to punch guys out, that's a pretty good indication that he's feeling good throwing the baseball," McCann said "I judge it off of wondering 'if he needs to get a strike, can he get it?' When a guy's behind and he can locate a fastball down and away to get back in the count, that's a big sign that he's feeling good."

Other news and notes from a split-squad, split-decision day:

- Jacoby Ellsbury, who hit a solo homer in Clearwater today, is still hitting just .150 on the spring -- yet as one reporter mentioned this morning, you hardly hear his name at all. Girardi couldn't remember any big-name acquisition flying under the radar like that, even pondering back to the big free agent class in 2008-09, but he had a theory as to why it was happening with Ellsbury: "Our shortstop really helped that out," he joked, adding that "with all the new guys we've brought in, Jeter retiring, replay, home plate collisions…there's a lot to talk about this spring. Actually, I'm sure it has helped him (settle in). Sometimes I actually think it's tougher on a guy if he's the only one we brought in."

- Alfonso Soriano made a nice catch in the first inning to save a run, and also added an RBI single. He appears to be at 100 percent after dealing with illness early in camp, and Girardi agreed: "Physically he seems to be doing well. I haven't had any discussions with our training staff otherwise."

- With Beltran and Soriano and Ellsbury and Gardner, there won't be much left in terms of playing time for Ichiro Suzuki if all goes to plan - but Girardi has ideas in mind for both that scenario and one a little more dire: "We've seen how quickly a landscape can change around here, so I'm just trying to get everybody ready to play opening day. (If everyone stays healthy), then it becomes a little tricky. A lot depends on how guys are playing, and how Ichi's playing, so it's a little trickier."

- Derek Jeter was 0-for-3 and has struggled at the plate all spring, something Girardi attributes to The Captain's timing being off - that's not something he's worried about: "With older guys you don't worry so much about spring training. I can remember, I think it was Lou Piniella who told me (in 2012) 'don't worry about Raul (Ibanez), you'll see it about the last week of Spring Training, that's when he'll start to hit.' And he was right. Sometimes it just takes a little longer for them to get going."

- Eduardo Nunez had two heads-up plays, one a bunt single he said came from recognizing the third baseman's position, and the other being that he was one of the two who noticed Henry Urrutia had failed to re-touch second base after Soriano's first-inning catch. "I always look for things like that," he said, and added that he's getting more and more comfortable at the hot corner every time out.

- Final word will got to Pineda, talking about the line drive he caught for the second out of the second inning: "I saw a little bit of white, and I said 'Oh my God" and I just caught it. Whew!"

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