Seattle draws another ace

Updated: April 29, 2011, 10:01 AM ET
By Buster Olney

Miguel Cabrera stepped into the batter's box for his first at-bat against Michael Pineda on Thursday, and with the count of two balls and two strikes, Pineda threw a fastball in the high 90s just out of the strike zone. Cabrera took it for Ball 3, stepped out of the box and said something to catcher Miguel Olivo, with a slight smile. Pineda had his attention.

When Cabrera stepped back into the box, Pineda looked in for the sign; Olivo called for a fastball. Pineda shook his head; he wanted a different sign.

Olivo gave the sign he was looking for, and Pineda started his delivery, turning before spinning a slider over the plate. Cabrera -- one of the best hitters on the planet -- took a half-hearted swing for Strike 3, and in the Mariners' dugout Seattle pitching coach Carl Willis turned and said to fellow coach Rob Thompson, "There was no way that Cabrera thinks he's shaking to a slider in that spot," Willis told Thompson.

No. But that's how good Pineda is, at age 22, at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds. Five starts into the 2011 season, he is the front-runner to be the AL Rookie of the Year, and if you suggested that he's an early fringe candidate for the Cy Young Award, that wouldn't be too crazy, either.