The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports
Can Pineda regain the status he had when the Yankees traded their top prospect for him in 2012 after recovering from a torn labrum?
Name: Michael Pineda
Position: Starter (RHP)
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 24 (born on 1/18/1989)
Height: 6'7" Weight: 255 lbs.
Remaining Contract: Under team control. Arbitration-eligible in 2014, free agent in 2017.
2012 Statistics: Missed entire season recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum
When the Yankees traded their best prospect to the Mariners in 2012, they expected to be getting a young fireballer that could follow CC Sabathia in the rotation for the foreseeable future. When Pineda showed up to Spring Training overweight with a fastball that was routinely below the velocity expected of him, everyone started to get a little concerned about just what the team had traded Jesus Montero for. Those fears proved to be very real with an MRI revealed a torn labrum that would end Pineda's first season as a Yankee before it even began.
Unfortunately for Pineda and the Yankees, shoulder injuries are not the easy-fix that elbow injuries requiring Tommy John surgery are these days. Players like Curt Schilling have been able to return from a torn labrum, but there are no guarantees. The results can vary and some pitchers will never be the same afterward. If that is the path Pineda takes, it will be hard to see the trade as anything but a complete failure on the Yankees' part unless Jose Campos becomes something truly special, which he certainly has the potential to be if everything works out for him.
The best case scenario is that Pineda returns to the pitcher he was during his time with the Mariners when he was a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year. If he can even get back in the same realm of the pitcher he was after going through such a potentially career-threatening injury, the Yankees should consider themselves lucky. He may never be that pitcher again and you can bet that fans will never fail to bring it up when calling out Brian Cashman's missteps, as if he was supposed to know that a healthy pitcher, according to the physicals completed at the time of the trade, would tear his labrum a couple months later.
It didn't help the disappointment when Pineda was charged with a DUI while he was supposed to be working toward getting back on the mound for the Yankees. He's young, but there is really no excuse to become the next athlete guilty of putting lives in danger by getting behind the wheel after drinking. The fact that he decided to do that while rehabbing from injury was just twisting the knife a little. The good news is that positive news seems to finally be coming out about Michael Pineda. Pineda has apparently lost weight and is already starting to throw breaking pitches while continuing to work toward getting back in the majors. We won't know what kind of velocity he is able to muster for a while; probably not until he gets into minor league games before hopefully returning to the big leagues this summer. You can be sure that every beat writer that covers the Yankees will be anxiously waiting to cover that information when it's available. Right now, all we can do is sit and wait.
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