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Pineda may hold key to Yankees' playoff hopes

A healthy return for the right-hander could give Yankees the ace they need
08/11/2014 7:24 PM ET
By Doug Williams

Michael Pineda posted a 1.83 ERA over four starts in April before getting hurt.(AP)
Michael Pineda is starting Wednesday's game against the Orioles, and now more than ever, the Yankees need him to be the pitcher they traded for, and more.

We saw a glimpse of how good Pineda could be at the start of the season. He shined in spring training and pitched very well for three starts in April. Then everything fell apart, first with the suspension for pine tar, then the pain in his shoulder muscle that has sidelined him since April 23.

Make no mistake about it, Pineda's return to the rotation is a boost for the Yankees if he can even be close to who he was in April. In fact, if Pineda can pitch every fifth day for the rest of the season, that alone will be a win for the team. 2011 was a long time ago, and as great as Pineda was that season for the Mariners, it's becoming increasingly difficult to compare today's Michael Pineda to that pitcher. The Yanks are already without CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka, and David Phelps. And the plan is for Pineda to join Hiroki Kuroda and Brandon McCarthy at the top of the current rotation, while the Yankees wait patiently to see if Tanaka can return before season's end.

But now, Michael Pineda is in a different position than he's ever been. He's not just going to slide into the middle of the rotation and hopefully give the Yankees some innings. As stated before, Sabathia is out, and Tanaka's health is in question. If Pineda can pitch to his potential and can effectively put his talent on display for the stretch run, he could easily become the Yankees ace in a matter of weeks. At the beginning of the season, it was a toss up for who the fifth starter should be between him and David Phelps. Now, the Yankees need Pineda to return so much that they are foregoing his final rehab start.

It's an interesting position that the 25-year old right-hander is in. The fact that he was an option for the fifth starter role at the beginning of the season and now is an ace candidate would lead you to believe that he earned that promotion…when really injuries have simply devastated the Yankees' rotation. But now, if he were to string together a few quality starts, he could easily become the Yankees ace and stopper. The guy with the best stuff in their rotation who can fill the gap until (hopefully) Tanaka can return in September. Or, on the other hand, Pineda could feel another injury come on, and would be sent right back to square one…where he'll be labeled as a mystery yet again for the 2015 season. With the electric stuff that Pineda has, combined with the fact that he's been unhealthy for the majority of his career, neither outcome would surprise most Yankees fans.

And to add to the pressure that is on Pineda already, the waiver trade market for starting pitching is looking slim. John Danks is owed too much money and Cole Hamels will cost the Yankees too many prospects. Getting Michael Pineda off the disabled list is as good of an acquisition as they could possibly make right now.

This may be an expression that's overused…but it really is your move, Michael Pineda.

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