It is as if Michael Pineda is releasing his 93 mph fastball from the upper deck. On top of the 10-inch mound, the 6-foot-7 Pineda delivers his pitches from a Manute Bol-like release point. Just 60 feet, 6 inches away, a batter feels quite small.
Pineda takes the mound on Thursday (1 p.m. on YES), trying to build on his impressive performance a week ago in which he struck out Miguel Cabrera. If not for a Nets game that took up the YES TV window Friday, Yankees fans would have witnessed Pineda's return after two years of shoulder, weight and DUI issues.
McCann faced Pineda during the righty's All-Star rookie season in 2011. In his first at-bat against Pineda, McCann struck out swinging on four pitches. McCann described Pineda as "carving."
McCann said the tilt on Pineda's release point emanates from such a high arc that it is difficult to make solid contact.
"He looks like he is right on you," said McCann, who nonetheless picked up two singles in his next two at-bats against Pineda in that late June game.
But if it were just as easy as being tall, MLB teams would just pluck every 12th man off an NBA roster. Putting everything together on the mound at that height is rare.
What really was impressive for Pineda on Friday was the ability to throw strikes on 21 of his 27 pitches, including his go-to slider.
"I think he was throwing 97 then," McCann said, comparing the Pineda he saw as a batter in 2011 to that outing. "I think he is throwing 92-93, but he has more cut on his fastball than he did. [On Friday] he had such good command with all of his pitches, he could do whatever he wanted."