Michael Pineda raised a few eyebrows when, in his first spring-training start with the Yankees, his fastball topped out in the low 90s. But it was early, and everyone was told not to worry too much. And I don't think people did worry too much. In Pineda's second start, he didn't get up to 96 or 97, but he showed a little improvement. It was comforting.
Thursday, Pineda made his third start. Those eyebrows are raised again. Facing the Nationals, his results were okay, striking out four of 15 batters with a walk and two runs. But here's Andrew Marchand:
But there was also this: Scouts behind home plate had Pineda's velocity at mostly 90-92.
When Pineda dominated in the first half of last year, he threw his fastball in the mid-90s. Last spring, at this time, Pineda was throwing 95-98 and his change-up was at 88.
It's still early. But it's less early than it used to be, and this is going to be a thing until Pineda airs it out. He's thrown some sharp sliders, and that's neat. He's thrown some good change-ups, and that's great. But his fastball isn't there yet, and his fastball is a big part of his identity. With a worse fastball, Pineda is presumably a worse pitcher.
We're still not at the point at which people should freak out. I'm guessing Joe Girardi and the Yankees agree. Maybe Pineda's backing off on his fastball on purpose, because there's no need to go max velocity in March. It's just that this hasn't gone away. Michael Pineda's fastball is still something for us to keep our eyes on, and the nearer we get to Opening Day, the greater the concern.