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Yankees name RHP Pineda as fifth starter

03/25/2014 7:08 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Michael Pineda displayed good velocity on his fastball throughout the spring.(AP)
It's official: Michael Pineda is a starting pitcher for the 2014 New York Yankees.

Manager Joe Girardi announced Tuesday that Pineda has won the competition for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, beating out David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno. Pineda will make his Yankees' regular-season debut next Saturday in Toronto, pitching one day after Masahiro Tanaka makes his major-league debut.

"He threw extremely well," Girardi said. "It was what we wanted to see from him. He improved with each outing, and at times was dominant. We really liked what we saw."

Pineda has missed the bulk of the last two seasons after having shoulder surgery in early-2012, with his 2013 "comeback" consisting of 40 2/3 innings over three levels of the minor leagues last summer. But, the righty had a 1.20 ERA and 16 strikeouts (against just one walk) in 15 innings this spring and had his fastball clocked in the mid-90s at times, a performance that impressed the Yankees.

"He has worked very hard the last two years. He's excited about it but understands he has a job to do," Girardi said. "I think we went into camp with an open mind, because we weren't sure what we were going to get from Michael. You look at a lot of other years, maybe one of those guys makes it as your fifth, because they all threw extremely well. But Michael, we thought, probably had the best spring."

Pineda put a final exclamation point on that Sunday, allowing two earned runs -- his first of the spring -- over six innings and striking out two in a 3-1 Yankees' loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I feel really good. Good energy. You know, that's what I want. It's Michael Pineda energy," he had said after Sunday's outing.

And, in even better news, while there has been talk that he may be limited because of the injury history, Girardi said Pineda will not have an innings limit of any kind on him at the season's outset.

"He does not have an innings limit on him," Girardi said. "We will watch how he's doing and we'll make judgments on what we have to do. This is a guy that has been to 175 innings before, so we know that he's capable of handling that. It's just, we've got to see how he's responding."

Girardi said that Phelps, Warren and Nuno will be considered for bullpen roles -- with all three set to pitch an inning in Tuesday's game as perhaps a "final" audition -- and once again reiterated that just because they all have bullpen experience, that flexibility didn't work against them.

"(Pineda) is a guy that has only started, but we weren't going to make a decision on that. Just because a guy had never pitched out of the bullpen, that that's what we were going to do," Girardi said. "We said all along we were going to take who we feel is going to be the best in the rotation and then we'll figure out the bullpen."

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