Michael Pineda has sore shoulder

Updated: March 31, 2012, 11:06 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

TAMPA -- New York Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda said he felt "a little sore" in the back of his right shoulder during an abbreviated outing on Friday night, allowing six runs in 2-2/3 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies.

It was unclear if Pineda is injured or if this was "normal soreness."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Pineda will have an MRI on Saturday.

The Yankees have got to be puzzled by the performance of the 23-year-old right-hander acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners for Jesus Montero, the most highly touted hitting prospect in their farm system.

There is a slight language barrier in communicating in English with Pineda, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic.

But there was no mistaking the answer when Pineda was asked the location of his discomfort -- he pointed to the back of his right shoulder, often the spot of labrum problems, a serious injury for pitchers.

"Today my arm is a little sore," a disconsolate Pineda said.

He said he felt the soreness "most of the time tonight," but that he did not inform the Yankees until after he was removed from the game with two outs in the third inning and the Phillies holding a 6-1 lead.

"When I was throwing, it was a little sore," said Pineda, who could be seen trying to stretch his pitching arm several times during his 71-pitch outing. "It's normal for players who play every day."

But whether it is merely the normal soreness that sometimes strikes pitchers in the latter stages of spring training -- the so-called "dead-arm syndrome" -- or something more serious remains to be determined.

There has been concern all spring over Pineda's relative lack of velocity -- his fastball has ranged between 89-91 miles per hour after averaging 95 last year -- and that is where it sat for most of Friday night's game, although the YES Network's radar gun caught him at 94 once and 93 twice.

A scout who communicated with ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand said his gun had Pineda as low as 88 and as high as 92, and that the young man appeared to be "pressing" on the mound.

Pineda acknowledged trying to throw harder on Friday night, although he said that was because his arm felt good before the game. "I don't know what my velocity was,'' he said. "But I was trying (to throw harder)."

While any physical ailment was not apparent to the eye, it was clear Pineda was struggling with his mechanics and his control. His delivery appeared to be all over the place and Pineda, who was visited on the mound twice by pitching coach Larry Rothschild, said he was opening up his left shoulder too much, causing his fastball to cut too much.

"I think my slider was good tonight, and I threw a couple of good changeups, too," Pineda said. "But I didn't have good command for my fastball tonight."

As a result, he had difficulty getting ahead of hitters and threw way too many pitches early. He had been scheduled to throw between 90-95 pitches but used up more than two-thirds of that allotment in less than three innings.

Pineda's troubles started early, when he allowed a run on three singles in the first inning, and continued in the second when he surrendered a long double to Carlos Ruiz, who came around to score on Juan Pierre's single. But the roof came down in the third, when he allowed one run on a rocket of a double by Jim Thome, and then surrendered another long double to Ruiz, a shot to the base of the wall in left-center that cleared the bases.

Pineda was not helped by his infield -- Alex Rodriguez's poor throw on what should have been an inning-ending forceout prolonged the inning so that Ruiz could bat with the bases loaded -- but he was also bailed out twice by his catcher, Russell Martin, who threw out Rollins and Pierre stealing in the first and second innings.

Before the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had said this was a "very important'' start for Pineda, who has been locked into a battle for one of the last two rotation slots with Freddy Garcia, who has pitched well this spring, and Ivan Nova, who mostly has not.

Interviewed during the game by the YES network, Girardi never mentioned an injury to Pineda's shoulder but was non-committal when asked what his performance meant for his rotation spot.

"I've said all along we have to make some decisions and we have to make them in a hurry," Girardi said. "We'll have to see what we do next."

Asked if he was worried that Friday's performance wold jeopardize his chances to crack the rotation, Pineda said, "I don't have control of that situation. I think I'm the same Michael Pineda as last year, you know?"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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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