Michael Pineda pitched like the ace that he is capable of being

Michael Pineda

Michael Pineda

During Saturday’s split squad 4-1 win against the Detroit Tigers, Michael Pineda threw 34 pitches in three innings and didn’t allow a hit. Pineda recorded four strikeouts and in the second inning he struck out Nick Castellanos swinging on his way to striking out the side.

“I’m happy,” Pineda said. “My changeup and all my pitches were very good. The command is still good.”

Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson was interviewed during the game and said that his slider looked good and he liked the confidence that he is showing on the mound. Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka could both serve as aces at the top of the rotation, and it is a positive sign that they both didn’t allow a run in consecutive spring training appearances.

Pineda, who is 26 years old and his only injury-free major league season came in 2011 with the Mariners, will try to stay healthy for the whole season during the 2015 campaign. If he can stay healthy while pitching like he did last season, he will greatly improve the team’s chance of making the playoffs. Last season, Pineda made 13 starts, threw 76.1 innings, had an outstanding 1.89 ERA, a 0.825 WHIP, 59 strikeouts and only seven walks.

After pitching two scoreless innings in his first spring training start on March 9, he pitched one more inning with similar dominance. He is an imposing figure on the mound at 6-7 and 260 pounds and his size helps him make his four-seam fastball (93mph), slider (85mph), change (88mph) and sinker (91mph) more effective. Pineda and Tanaka are capable of being the best one and two starters in the American League East this season.

On offense, for the team’s first run of the game, Didi Gregorius hit a sac fly to right to drive in Mason Williams after his triple in the third inning for the team’s first run. Williams is an outfield prospect with a lot of potential who underperformed last season as he hit only .223 at Double-A Trenton. He was rated the 41st best prospect in baseball before the 2013 season.

In the sixth inning, second baseman Stephen Drew hit a single to load the bases and then two runs scored on an error after first baseman Mark Teixeira hit a ground ball. Those were all the runs the Yankees would need as the Tigers only had one runner cross home plate.

The Yankees lost their other game played on Saturday to the Blue Jays, which means that their Grapefruit League record is 8-5. Esmil Rogers got the start with Joe Girardi watching and he is a possibility for the open 5th starter position. Rogers, who pitched for the Blue Jays in 2013 and part of 2014, pitched three scoreless innings. He allowed four hits and had three strikeouts.

The only run that the Tigers scored came off of Dellin Betances, who could be the closer this season. Betances allowed two hits and a balk, but his spring training stats don’t matter nearly as much as they did last season when his dominance helped him make the team. Andrew Miller, who could also be the closer, struck out two in the fifth, Nick Rumbelow, James Pazos, Jaron Long and Jared Burton combined to allow only one hit in the final four innings.

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