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Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Pineda & the importance of velocity

By Andrew Marchand

Michael Pineda had an uptick in his velocity on Tuesday, pitching in the 90-93 range for much of his three innings and even hitting 94. So his velo may be coming.

It seems to be important that it does when you look at these numbers provided by the invaluable researcher Katie Sharp.  As Sharp notes, these are not perfect numbers, but they do seem to indicate what happens when Pineda fires his fastball at 95-plus and when he doesn't.

Last season, Pineda threw 755 fastballs that were 95-MPH or better. Of those, batters hit .180. Their slugging was .285. Batters missed these pitches almost a quarter (23 percent) of the time.

Pineda threw 627 fastballs at 94 or slower.  Opponents hit .294 on those offerings.  They slugged at .476. They only missed 17 percent of the time.

So can Pineda pitch effectively at 90-92? Brian Cashman and David Cone both say he could. They may end up being right if he develops his change to go along with his still nasty change-up. But Cashman acquired Pineda to eventually be a No. 1 or 2 starter. I don't know if ever gets there without his top heat.

And, let's make this abundantly clear, that might come. This is only spring training so Pineda may have a truly electric fastball once the regular season starts. He may be a guy that as the game goes, gets stronger and throws harder. There is evidence that is the case.

Still, the fact that he could start the year at Triple-A is in play because Cashman and Joe Girardi have both raised the possibility.For his part, Pineda arrived in camp 20 pounds overweight. His fastball hasn't fully shown up yet. And he has been a little overwhelmed by the expectations of being a Yankee; especially dealing with the media. So it might -- might! -- be the best thing for him.

On Tuesday, Pineda again could not pitch his allotted innings, only lasting three frames.  Pineda's pitch count got too high, too quickly, for him to continue deeper. These are the games that Girardi has said mean more as far as the rotation.

The Yankees would likely prefer for Pineda, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes to be in the rotation over Freddy Garcia, but they have made it apparent they aren't going to hand anything to anyone. There are no scholarships when there are six and soon seven starters for five spots.