Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda (35) walks to the dugout after he warmed up and gets ready to pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Michael Pineda was supposed to play a key role in the Yankees' rotation this season, but instead he's out of action until 2013. How badly will he be missed?
Upon the news that Michael Pineda's going to miss this entire season because of a serious shoulder injury, one couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for oneself; after all, not so terribly long ago, Pineda ranked among baseball's greatest prospects. One major-league season followed, in which Pineda struck out a batter per inning and might reasonably have been the American League's Rookie of the Year.
One's next reaction, perhaps -- judging by the Twitter, anyway -- was to pronounce judgment on the off-season trade that sent Pineda (and Jose Campos) from the Seattle Mariners to the New York Yankees, for Jesús Montero (and Héctor Noesí).
Pineda's out, and 19-year-old Campos is pitching in Class A (and pitching exceptionally well, for what that's worth). Montero's playing regularly for the Mariners, and Noesi's in the Mariners' pitching rotation.
Which seems like a big win for the Mariners, even with both Montero and Noesi off to slow starts.
In the short term, though, does any of this matter to the New York Yankees? Last year the Yankees won 97 games, with Pineda pitching 3,000 miles away in Seattle. This year they're 10-8, again without him.
Are the Yankees going to miss Pineda?
Maybe more than you think.
After the Yankees signed Andy Pettitte and before Pineda went down for the count, the Yankees seemed to have seven worthy starting pitchers: those two, plus CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and Freddy Garcia.
Sabathia and Kuroda are veterans, reliably.
Hughes spent much of last season on the Disabled List; this season he's given up 18 runs in 16 innings.
Garcia's given up 14 runs in 12 innings.
Nova's been good, except for giving up four home runs in 19 innings.
Everyone's probably going to be fine. They've all got good (or better) strikeout-to-walk ratios; where the earned-run averages are inflated, it's largely because of home runs, and home-run rates this early in the season just don't tell us much about how well anyone's actually pitched.
Well, two of them will probably be fine; the other probably will flame out, and spend at least a few weeks on the DL (or in Hughes' case, perhaps back in the minors). Should that happen, the Yankees will still be one starter short of a reliable quintet. But of course there's still wily old Andy Pettitte. Even if -- after pitching five somewhat shaky innings against double-A hitters Wednesday night -- he's at least two or three weeks away from rejoining the Yankees.
And the Yankees also have prospects; entering this season, their two best prospects were starting pitchers Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances. The good news is that both are pitching for the triple-A Empire State Yankees. The bad news is that both have pitched dreadfully this spring.
The best news is that the Yankees don't need five good starting pitchers to thrive; remember, last season Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett combined for 46 starts and the Yankees still won 97 games.
But just a month or two ago, the Yankees seemed awash in good starting pitchers. Today, it looks like Brian Cashman might actually have to do some work this summer.