First Pitch: PINEda, Man of Substance?

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
10:52
AM ET
Michael Pineda's pitched at Fenway once before. The Yankees are hoping for a far different result tonight.

On a Sunday in July three years ago, the Red Sox lit Pineda up for five runs in the first as part of a 12-8 Mariners' loss.

Tonight, Pineda makes his Yanks-Sox, Fenway debut. Pineda is not the same pitcher he was then -- and the atmosphere promises to be much more intense.

In 2011, Pineda was in the midst of his fade. In the first half of that year, he made the All-Star team with a 3.03. When the Red Sox saw him, he was on his way to a 5.12 second-half ERA. With his velocity dragging and his shoulder aching, he didn't fully recover until this spring.

Now, the 6-foot-7 Pineda enters 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA. With his mid-90s fastball and devastating slider, he has looked as good as any starter in baseball.

Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka are in a race to the top of the Yankees' rotation. As dominant as Tanaka has been, Pineda has matched him pitch for pitch. Pineda has struck out 15 and walked just three in his 18 innings so far.

But we will learn a little something about Pineda that we sort of already had an inkling about Tanaka prior to Tuesday night. Can Pineda handle the big spot? This might be the biggest game he has ever pitched as a pro.

Tanaka had proven in Japan and here that he the spotlight will not make him shutter.

Pineda still has to show that. He has his forum on Yawkey Way. He dealt with L'Affaire PINEda very well.

That was a weird controversy because it started in the NESN television booth, spread over Twitter, went through the mainstream media before it finally reached the actual participants, who universally said it was no big deal or they didn't know anything about it. It probably won't be an on-field issue tonight.

Red Sox fans, though, likely haven't forgotten. They may be ready to remind Pineda about it at every chance. So we could learn a little something about Pineda.

With Ivan Nova out, Pineda is now more than ever the Yankees' X-factor.

Jeter
Jeter
Jeter Streaking: Derek Jeter is on an 11-game hitting streak. Jeter is hitting .326 over that string. Overall, he is at .298. He turns 40 in June.

The Red Sox will send John Lackey to the mound. In Jeter's career, he has hit .277 in 85 at-bats.

Angelic: Over the weekend, the Angels will send lefties C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago on Friday and Saturday.

Jeter would figure to have one of those games off with a day game after a night game. With two lefties, it is not obvious which day Joe Girardi will have Jeter sit. It is possible -- but I'd say less likely -- that Jeter could start Friday and Saturday and rest Sunday night against righty Garrett Richards. Girardi might decide with a day off Monday, he could, in effect, give Jeter a break from Saturday night until Tuesday night.

Reunion: Not only will Robinson Cano return on Tuesday as a Seattle Mariner, but that will be the day that Pineda should be on the mound next after tonight. A lot of storylines in that one.

Tanaka Time: Tanaka's next start should be Sunday night against the Angels. Girardi hasn't made anything official yet.
Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.


TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .291
HRM. Teixeira 17
RBIM. Teixeira 48
RB. Gardner 60
OPSB. Gardner .786
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135