Michael Pineda in Yanks' rotation

Updated: March 26, 2014, 11:34 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi made official on Tuesday what has been obvious for the past few weeks -- that Michael Pineda has pitched well enough this spring to be named to his starting rotation, completing a two-year journey back from serious shoulder surgery and salvaging a trade that for a time looked as if it would be a disaster for the Yankees.

"He threw extremely well," Girardi said. "It was what we wanted to see from him. He improved each outing. At times he was dominant. We liked what we saw."

In four appearances (three starts) this spring, Pineda went 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA. He did not allow an earned run until this past Sunday after throwing 13 scoreless innings, and struck out 16 batters in 15 innings, walking just one.

"I'm so excited," Pineda said. "I've been working so hard for the last two years to be in New York, to help my team, and today they make me happy. Today is a big day for me. I'm putting everything in the past. I want to continue my career and I want to be here for a long time."

Although he took the loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, his performance convinced the Yankees to add him as the fifth starter in their rotation, behind CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova. Pineda will make his first regular-season start on Saturday, April 5 against the Blue Jays in Toronto.

Pineda, 25, was acquired by the Yankees from the Seattle Mariners in a trade for their top prospect, catcher Jesus Montero, in January 2012, after a dominant rookie season in which his fastball averaged a league-high 96.7 mph. But he had trouble breaking 90 mph in his first spring for the Yankees, and left a game with shoulder soreness on March 29 that year. Later that week, he was diagnosed with a torn labrum in his right shoulder and underwent reconstructive surgery in May.

He needed 13 months to recover before beginning a rehab assignment last June and made five starts before being reinstated to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in July, for whom he went 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA.

This spring, he has relied on his slider and off-speed pitches and his fastball has hovered around 90-92 mph, although Girardi said he believed Pineda could still add to his velocity.

"I don't see why it can't," Girardi said. "I think he's touched 95 since he's been here. He's reached 94 a number of times. We'll see. But he doesn't need it to be successful."

Girardi said the Yankees consider Pineda fully recovered.

"I think in the back of your mind you always worry long term about a guy that's had an injury like he's had," Girardi said. "But short term he looks great. I'm not saying I expect him only to make it a month, two months. I'm expecting him to pitch the whole year for us."

Girardi said Pineda would not be under an innings limit this season.

"We will watch how he's doing and make judgments on what we have to do," Girardi said. "This is a guy who's been to 175 innings before. So we know he's capable of handling that. We just have to see how he's responding."

Two of the other contenders for the spot, David Phelps and Adam Warren, will make the team as relievers; the fourth, Vidal Nuno, may be added to the bullpen as well.

"All of them pitched extremely well this spring," Girardi said. "We weren't sure what we were going to get out of Michael but I think we went into camp with an open mind. We said all along we were going to take who we feel is going to be the best in the rotation. And Michael we thought probably had the best spring of them all."

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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