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Friday, March 7, 2014
Impressive Pineda strikes out Cabrera

By Andrew Marchand

TAMPA, Fla. -- The best hitter in baseball looked overmatched. Miguel Cabrera waited in the batter's box. Michael Pineda stood on the mound.

After ball one, Pineda went to work. He used a slider that Cabrera missed to even up the count. He followed that up with a nasty curve. Up 1-2, Pineda returned to the slider, and Cabrera could not stop his swing.

Michael Pineda
If Michael Pineda continues to look like he did Friday night, the Yankees are in luck.
It is only spring training, but it highlighted an extremely impressive exhibition debut for Pineda.

"It is tough to get Cabrera to swing and miss twice," one scout said.

In all, Pineda went two shutout innings. He struck out four and walked none. His precision was excellent, firing 21 of his 27 pitches for strikes.

And his velocity?

It was pretty good, with scouts clocking his fastball at 91-93 miles per hour and his slider at 79-82. He looked like a different pitcher than he was in 2012, when he arrived in Yankees camp with a bum shoulder, overweight and unable to consistently reach even 90 mph on his fastball.

Because of all that, the Yankees have been waiting for Pineda to look like some semblance of the 2011 All-Star whom they traded Jesus Montero for in January 2012. On Friday night, he received four-star reviews.

"He looked very good and healthy," a scout said.

Pineda was pleased, describing his command as "perfect" and summing the night up as "great."

"I showed Michael Pineda," Pineda said.

In the fifth, Pineda impressed immediately. He struck out Austin Jackson on three pitches, finishing him off with a curve.

After a Stephen Lombardozzi single to left, Pineda induced a double-play ball from Nick Castellanos. The Yankees got the lead runner when Derek Jeter tossed to Brian Roberts, but Roberts could not successfully complete the throw to first. Unfazed, Pineda struck out Danny Worth, again using a curve to end the at-bat.

"If [he] is healthy, he is an uncomfortable at-bat," catcher Brian McCann said.

Pineda is competing for the No. 5 spot in the rotation with David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno. He is the guy the Yankees want to win the job. He only helped his case on Friday.

Notes: Masahiro Tanaka will throw a simulated game on Tuesday and will next start in Tampa against the Braves on Sunday, March 15 … Brendan Ryan will sit out until the middle of the week, with what manager Joe Girardi indicated was a strained oblique … Carlos Beltran hit a two-run home run off Anibal Sanchez that still might be flying through the sky … Jeter had two more hits. In the first inning, Jeter picked up an infield single on a slow roller to third base and then hit a grounder up the middle in the third inning … Hiroki Kuroda threw 2⅔ innings of scoreless ball. He gave up one hit, a double to Cabrera, and struck out five … Joba Chamberlain pitched a rocky, scoreless inning. After two outs, Chamberlain gave up a single, threw a wild pitch and walked a batter, but then struck out Francisco Arcia … The Yankees won 3-2 when Luis Marte balked in the winning run in the ninth.