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Girardi: I see an improved Michael Pineda

3/2/2014

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- With the sky a perfect shade of blue, Michael Pineda stood tall on a back-field mound at the Yankees' spring training facility in Tampa. His delivery looked tighter than it did two years ago. The fastball had renewed life.

At least, that is what Joe Girardi witnessed.

A simulated game can only show so much. There are no fielders, but a pitcher does take breaks as if his team is at the plate. There is no gun so there is no way of knowing for sure if Pineda's velocity has returned. Still, Girardi saw Pineda turn one bat into twigs and came away impressed from his two simulated innings.

"His stuff is a lot closer than it was when we got him that spring a couple of years ago," Girardi said, referencing 2012 when Pineda started spring training out of shape and ended up with a bum shoulder. "It just seems to be coming out of his hand easy [now.]"

Scott Sizemore -- who is trying to make the Yankees as a reserve infielder -- faced Pineda during his 2011 All-Star season. Sizemore hit a home run in four at-bats in an August game between Seattle and Oakland. Still, as one of the simulated batters, he came away impressed on Sunday.

"I have to believe that was low- to mid-90s, but with the movement it definitely makes it challenging," Sizemore said.

It is Pineda's height -- 6 feet, 7 inches -- that makes it feel as if the pitch is coming from behind you for a righty like Sizemore.

"It is hard to stay in there," Sizemore said.

Pineda will throw in a real game on Friday night when he pitches three innings at Steinbrenner Field, following Hiroki Kuroda. After that appearance, we find out more if what Girardi says he sees is real.

GAMER: The Yankees won 8-2, beating the Jays. Vidal Nuno started and gave up a home run to Jose Bautista in two innings. He allowed just one other hit, struck out three and walked none. Nuno is competing with Pineda, David Phelps and Adam Warren for the fifth spot, but the evaluation period doesn't really begin until his next start when he will go three innings. ... Eduardo Nunez began the game with a throwing error on a grounder by Derek Jeter's biggest fan, Jose Reyes. In the third, Nunez atoned by hitting a solo homer off Todd Redmond. Nunez is trying to make the team as a utility infielder. After Nunez went yard, Carolos Beltran went deep. Beltran had ice on his left foot after the game, but he said it was nothing. The foot sometimes becomes sore when he leaves the batter's box on a hard surface.

CC SIMULATE: CC Sabathia will pitch a simulated game on Thursday so there will be no velocity updates until his next outing. There is no speed gun during simulated games. There is no special reason for Sabathia throwing in a fake game, except it is his day to pitch and the Yankees are on the road. Instead, Masahiro Tanaka will make his debut in Clearwater.

FIRE!: Before the win, the Yankees had to briefly evacuate their clubhouse when a towel in the adjacent room caught on fire. Girardi said that it was a little smoky in the locker room.

"Nuno didn't move," Girardi said laughing.