It might seem like an unfair matchup -- after all, the pitchers have been in camp for eight days now, the hitters only arrived Friday -- but some of the regulars will have to face Michael Pineda in live early batting practice this morning at The Boss. (For you early risers, that will be about 8:30 a.m.)
Pineda and CC Sabathia throwing against their teammates will be this morning's main event, and while Joe Girardi said "it's too early to make anything of it,'' there's no doubt all eyes will be on the 6-7, 280-pound, 23-year-old right-hander acquired in a trade for Jesus Montero who is, in the words of Nick Swisher "a monster.''
A monster he may be, but to the Yankees front office, Pineda is still a monster-in-training, hence Girardi's reluctance to anoint him the No. 2 starter in the rotation, a spot that is more likely to go to Ivan Nova or Hiroki Kuroda.
The Yankees have high expectations for Pineda, who went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA and 173 Ks in 171 IP, but not necessarily immediately; Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has been working with Pineda to add an effective changeup to his current fastball-slider repertoire.
"He is a young, high-end arm that we look forward to growing into someone who we hope can be a consistent winner for the Yankees going forward,'' GM Brian Cashman said. "But there is a gap to close on things. He’s got to develop his changeup. It’s a below average pitch for him right now. I don’t think there’s a number one or two starter in the big leagues right now with only two pitches.''
That is why no one should be surprised if Pineda winds up the No. 3 or No. 4 guy in the Yankees rotation. The starting staff, which looked threadbare in December, is now that deep in mid-February. And, as Cashman said, "I’m dreaming on the guy, obviously, and we’re all dreaming on the guy but the fact of the matter is there’s work to be done still. It's going to take time.''
ON-DECK CIRCLE: I will be out there early to watch Pineda and Sabathia throw early BP, and then in the clubhouse canvassing for reviews from the guys lucky, or unlucky, enough to be chosen to hit against them. (The Yankees don't announce the hitting groups until just before the workout). Check the blog all day for updates.
IN THE HOLE: I had a conversation with Mark Teixeira in regards to his new body, and new hitting approach against the shift, and I'll share what he said in a column later on.
QUESTION: Should the Yankees negotiate a contract extension with Nick Swisher during the season? Or let him play out his contract and shop for someone better in the off-season?