SEATTLE -- The clock is about to start for Michael Pineda, who will officially begin his rehab assignment on Saturday, pitching for the Class A Tampa Yankees against the Detroit Tigers' farm club in Lakeland. Once the assignment begins, the Yankees have 30 days to either add him to the Yankees roster or assign him to a club in the minors.
"So far what he’s done in extended spring is good," Joe Girardi said. "He's healthy and we’ve been happy with what he's done so far."
Pineda, who underwent shoulder surgery last March, has thrown as many as 75 pitches in extended spring training games and his fastball had reportedly been clocked as high as 95 mph. His one setback came when he was forced to leave a start nine days ago after cracking a fingernail. Still, the promising right-hander who the Yankees traded Jesus Montero to obtain is not guaranteed a spot on the roster even if his rehab goes well.
"I think you’re going to want to see him throw 90-100 pitches more than once, maybe even more than twice," Girardi said. "Just cause you want to see how he bounces back, because it’s been a long time, really, since he’s pitched. We’ll let the people down below watch him and see where he’s at."
Considering how well the Yankees starting staff has pitched this season -- the Yankees allowed Chien-Ming Wang to exercise his option to be released because they did not have a spot for him -- it may not be a slam dunk for Pineda to crack the rotation. Last week, GM Brian Cashman said Pineda would have to prove he is a better choice than CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes or David Phelps, plus Ivan Nova, currently pitching for AAA Scranton, to be promoted to the majors.
Asked if Pineda might run into the same problem that KO'd Wang's bid to return to the Yankees after a minor-league rehab assignment, Girardi said, "I’m not so sure. You don’t know what’s going to happen in two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, or however long it takes him, but you can never have too much depth."
He did, however, squash any notion that the Yankees might add Pineda as a bullpen option. "We consider him a starter," Girardi said.