- Wallace Matthews, ESPNNewYork.com
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TAMPA, Fla. -- New York Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday to continue his bid to win the No. 5 starter's job two years after undergoing serious shoulder surgery.
Pineda allowed three hits and struck out five of the 11 hitters he faced, but he needed the help of a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch by left fielder Alfonso Soriano to escape a first-inning jam. Pineda made a nifty play of his own in the second to flag down a hard liner by Delmon Young that was headed for center field.
The velocity on his fastball, which was the first sign of his shoulder problems during his first spring training camp with the Yankees in 2012, was less than dazzling. Pineda hit 92 mph twice and most of his fastballs were clocked in the 89-90 range.
But he threw strikes -- 27 out of 48 pitches -- and his breaking ball appeared sharp, especially an 81-mph curve that struck out Quintin Berry in the third. Pineda left after having reached his pitch count with two outs in the inning and runners on first and second after issuing a walk to Jonathan Schoop and an infield single to Alex Gonzalez.
David Robertson, who inherited the closer's role when Mariano Rivera retired after last season, struck out Henry Urrutia to preserve Pineda's scoreless streak. Pineda threw two shutout innings against the Detroit Tigers last Friday, including a strikeout of two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera. In his 4 2/3 innings of spring ball, he has allowed four hits and one walk and struck out nine.
Before the game, manager Joe Girardi seemed to hint that Pineda, who the Yankees acquired from the Seattle Mariners in a trade for highly touted prospect Jesus Montero in January 2012, held the upper hand in the four-man competition for the final spot in the rotation.
Girardi also said that even if Pineda wins the job, the Yankees do not expect him to make a full slate of 30 starts or pitch 200 innings. He has not pitched in a major league game since Sept. 21, 2011, as a Mariners rookie.
"Hypothetically, let's just say he was a starter at some point, you'd have to adjust, because you're not going to get 200 innings out of him," Girardi said. "I know they've talked about it. I'm sure if it becomes a factor and he's part of our club, we're going to have to see how it works."
When Pineda left the game, the Yankees led 3-0 on an RBI single by Carlos Beltran, an RBI double by Brett Gardner, and a throwing error by Orioles starter Bud Norris on Derek Jeter's comebacker that allowed Gardner to score from second.
2hAdam Lewis, Special to ESPN.com