When Dan Haren was scratched from his start on Saturday due to a balky back, the Angels' rotation moved up a day, putting scheduled Sunday starter Ervin Santana on the bump for Saturday's game, and moving Joel Piñeiro into Santana's spot for Sunday's contest. The right-handed Piñeiro is a veteran groundballer who throws his high-80s sinker the majority of the time, mixing it with a slider, which is his best swing-and-miss pitch (a weak competition), and curve and the rare change or four-seamer (also high-80s). He pitches to contact, which means he's stingy with walks (just 1.6 per nine innings thus far this year) but rarely strikes anyone out either (add a career low 3.7 K/9 thus far)
A Mariners prospect a decade ago, Piñeiro salvaged his career under Dave Duncan in St. Louis then signed a two-year deal with the Angels prior to the 2010 season. He missed more than a month late last season with an oblique strain, then missed almost all of April this year with a tight pitching shoulder. He pitched well in his first four starts back (2-0, 1.98 ERA), but his last three have all been nearly identical and less than impressive: 6 IP, 4 ER, 0 BB, no more than 3 Ks (net result: 0-2, 5.79 ERA). Piñeiro faced the Yankees twice last year, both times in the Bronx. Piñeiro dominated in April (7 IP, 1 R, 7 K), and the Yankees returned the favor in July (6 IP, 6 R).
Piñeiro has had too many ups and downs in his career for career-long splits to mean much, but it does seem worth noting that Alex Rodriguez is just 5-for-37 (.135) against him with just one extra base hit, one walk, and 11 Ks in 39 career plate appearances (including 1-for-10 last year with 4 Ks). Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin, and Jorge Posada have also struggled against him in slightly smaller samples. Robinson Cano, meanwhile, is 9-for-16 with three doubles and a homer against Piñeiro in his career, including 6-for-9 last year.