Michael Pineda could return sooner

Updated: April 26, 2012, 10:41 PM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Nearly two decades after suffering a similar injury to his throwing shoulder, Curt Schilling said he thinks Yankees starter Michael Pineda could return from surgery in less than a year -- and that Pineda might be even better.

"He can be back better than he has ever been in 10 months," said Schilling, now an ESPN baseball analyst. "Maybe less, because he is younger. It is going to be 100 percent on him."

The Yankees have diagnosed Pineda, 23, with an anterior labral tear. The team says it will take Pineda one year before he will be on a major league mound. Surgery is scheduled for Tuesday.

"I was really surprised to see the 12-month-out thing," said Schilling, who suffered a superior labral tear in 1995.

You have a lot of people speculating about [Pineda's] weight gain and blah, blah, blah. It is all about the strength in the shoulder. He clearly had a very weak shoulder. When you have a weak shoulder, your shoulder will start to droop and you will start to tax muscles and you get tears.

-- ESPN MLB analyst Curt Schilling

Schilling, who won 216 games during his major league career, had the surgery when he was 28 years old. Ten months later, after rigorously following the rehab program, Schilling returned in May 1996 and threw seven shutout innings. He went on to throw more than 2,400 additional major league innings and may end up in the Hall of Fame.

"I came back after my surgery, throwing four to six miles harder than I did before," he said. "That is where the magic is. It is all about rehab. Most doctors can make you 100 percent well physically. I would tell you that it is 25 percent about the surgery and 75 percent about the rehab."

Dr. Craig D. Morgan performed the surgery on Schilling. Morgan said that pitchers take four months before they can pick up a ball.

With the advances in the science, Morgan believes Pineda possibly could pitch again in six to eight months.

The ability to hasten the recovery likely will have to a lot to do with Pineda's work ethic.

"These people have to develop a meticulous work ethic on this," Morgan said. "It is their life. They have to do it. Some of them are lazy. Some of them aren't.

"They are functional and good by six to eight months, but they are at their best the next year after that. It is kind of a spectrum of a comeback. Schilling was better than he was before he got hurt. The reason for that was that he bought into the exercise program for his total body, which made him a better pitcher than he was before he got hurt."

Schilling said the fact that Pineda came in out of shape doesn't help, but it has "absolutely" nothing to do with the injury. Pineda arrived at camp 20 pounds overweight.

"You have a lot of people speculating about his weight gain and blah, blah, blah," Schilling said. "It is all about the strength in the shoulder. He clearly had a very weak shoulder. When you have a weak shoulder, your shoulder will start to droop and you will start to tax muscles and you get tears."

Schilling thinks there is no way the Mariners knew that Pineda was hurt before they made the blockbuster deal for Jesus Montero in the offseason.

"I don't believe the Mariners knowingly traded an injured player," Schilling said. "I've met very few people in the game who are that bad. You don't do something like that. Because if you did something like that and there was a way to find out you did something like that, would you ever be able to make another trade again?"

Both Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik and Yankees GM Brian Cashman said the Mariners did nothing wrong.

ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell also said she didn't think the Mariners knew Pineda was hurt. She thought Pineda could be better after surgery because the Yankees will have a chance to get his whole body in shape.

"If you want to paint the silver lining on this, it is, yeah, he is going to have supervised rehab and conditioning that will help protect his arm as his arm comes back over the course of a year," Bell said.

There are no guarantees, as Mark Mulder can attest. The left-hander's career ended after he needed shoulder surgery.

Mulder had a labral tear and the more serious rotator cuff injury. He hurt the shoulder when he was 27 and never really was effective again.

Deep down, Mulder knew it was over even as he tried to rehab for a few years.

"Looking back, I had a bad feeling," Mulder said.

Mulder retired by the time he was 30 and is now an ESPN baseball analyst. He earned nearly $34 million in his career.

Pineda is due to make $528,475, so if he is ever going to make millions, he is going to need to follow Schilling's path.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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