Pineda beats out Phelps, Warren, Nuno for rotation job
Right-hander set for Yankees debut on April 5 against the Blue Jays in Toronto
TAMPA, Fla. -- Michael Pineda has won the Yankees' fifth-starter competition, and after missing all of the past two seasons, the right-hander is finally primed to throw his first official pitches for the organization.
Pineda, 25, beat out David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno by going 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA in four Grapefruit League games (three starts). In 15 innings, Pineda permitted 14 hits, walked one and struck out 16.
"He threw extremely well," manager Joe Girardi said. "It was what we wanted to see from him. He improved with each outing, and at times was dominant. We really liked what we saw."
Girardi said that Pineda will stay back in camp to have one more spring tune-up on Sunday in Tampa before traveling to make his Yankees debut on April 5 against the Blue Jays in Toronto.
"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 made me happy. I'm working so hard all the time to be here."
Pineda, a 2011 American League All-Star with the Mariners, was acquired with reliever Jose Campos in a four-player deal that shipped top prospect Jesus Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi to Seattle in January 2012.
The deal has not worked out swimmingly for either side to date, but that might change if Pineda recaptures his old form. Pineda showed up in the spring of 2012 out of shape and trying to manufacture velocity before sustaining a right labrum tear that required surgery.
"I learned a lot," Pineda said. "It's hard. I learned [from] a lot of situations that happened with me in the last two years. I'm a professional player and I need to focus on baseball every day -- here, in the Dominican, in the offseason, whatever. I have to continue my work every day and be ready all the time."
The Yankees have been encouraged by Pineda's velocity and poise this spring. Girardi has often said that the ball comes out of Pineda's hand easily, something that they did not see from him in 2012, and noted that the Yankees will not have an innings limit for Pineda.
"We will watch how he's doing and we'll make judgments on what we have to do," Girardi said. "This is a guy that has been to  innings before, so we know that he's capable of handling that. It's just, we've got to see how he's responding."
Pineda said that he no longer thinks about his shoulder when he is on the mound; his focus is on making pitches and getting outs. He beamed when asked who he had shared Tuesday's good news with.
"I called so many people -- my friends and my family and my mom," Pineda said. "Everybody's excited because they know I've been working hard for the last two years and I want to go back to the Majors. Today is a big day for me."
Phelps, Nuno and Warren will continue to be evaluated as relievers, Girardi said. Phelps and Warren appear to be locks for the big league roster, while Nuno could be in the bullpen or head to Triple-A as a starter.
Girardi said that the Yankees went into the spring with an open mind concerning all of their candidates, and that Pineda's performance exceeded their expectations.
"We weren't sure what we were going to get from Michael," Girardi said. "You look at a lot of other years, maybe one of those guys makes it as your fifth, because they all threw extremely well.
"But Michael, we thought, probably had the best spring. ... We said all along, we were going to take who we feel is going to be the best in the rotation, and then we'll figure out the bullpen."