Brian Cashman's biggest gamble in years takes the mound for the Yankees Monday afternoon in Clearwater when Michael Pineda, the young righthander the Yankees parted ways with Jesus Montero to acquire, takes the mound for his first spring training start against the Phillies.
Like Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia before him, Pineda will work just two innings or about 35 pitches, but for this one, the GM is likely to get a little sweaty in the palms and fluttery in the chest. Because if Montero turns out to be as good as the Yankees used to say he was, and Pineda turns out to be anything less that they hope he will be, this one could be remembered with the same kind of fondness George Costanza had for Jay Buhner-for-Ken Phelps.
Pineda has an electric fastball and slider but already, the doubts have begin to creep in. The 6-7 Pineda came to camp admittedly 10 pounds over his playing weight of 270, and the Yankees have been working to improve his changeup, with Cashman even going so far as to say that no starting pitcher could be a success in the AL with just two pitches.
So there seems to be as much pressure on the Yankees as there is on Pineda, who went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA last year for the weak-hitting Mariners in spacious Safeco Field. Already, there had been reservations about his second half dropoff, when his ERA after the All-Star break was over 5.00. And he has seemed at times surprised, if not overwhelmed, by the media attention that greeted him from his first day in camp.
To ease Pineda's transition, the Yankees gave him a locker between CC Sabathia and Freddy Garcia , two pitchers with 25 seasons and more than 300 wins between them.
"He’s got a power arm, but now he’s here in New York, now he’s got to make an adjustment,'' Garcia said. "Because it’s different to pitch in Seattle than in New York. Different division.
Last year nobody know him. This year he has to prove how good he is, you know?''
Garcia said he thought the 23-year-old would be able to handle it. "He’s really relaxed from what I see so far. He’s confident. That’s real important if you play in New York, you have to, you know be confident and go out there and show people you can play there.''
But he said Pineda has asked him "a lot of questions'' about what it's like to play in New York City. "He's real excited about it,'' Garcia said, "But he wants to know, you know? The first time he came in here, it was like, 'Wow! All the media'' In Seattle, there was only like two or three guys and sometimes they don't even ask a question. I told him it's different here, man. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you pitch, you wait for the media and you talk to them. That's the way they do it here.''
Today is the first chapter in the pinstriped version of the Michael Pineda Story. Even though it probably won't have any effect on how the story unfolds, how do you think it will all end? Will Pineda be a hit in the big city? Or get hit, and hard? Let us know.
ON-DECK CIRCLE: The Yankees clubhouse opens at 8:40 a.m., and Mariano Rivera will throw his first live BP session of the spring to Francisco Cervelli and Chris Dickerson at 9 a.m. Rafael Soriano will follow Mo against the same two hitters. I'll be there to file an eyewitness report to the blog before heading across Tampa Bay for the game against the Phillies, which begins at 1:05 p.m. None of the starting infielders are making the trip but the defense team of Gardy, Grandy and Swish -- that would be Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher-- are expected to be in the starting lineup.