The clock has begun.
By now I'm sure you've all read Tanya's article concerning Michael Pineda's first rehab start. Personally, I poured over every last word with an evangelical fervor: He was only topping out at 93? Or was it 95? Was it a hot gun, a cold gun, a lukewarm gun? Who was holding the gun? Was his hand shaking? I know he was pitching in Florida, at sea level, but what of the barometric pressure readings? DEAR GOD, WHAT OF THE BAROMETRIC PRESSURE READINGS?
Sunday's start marked the beginning of Pineda's 30-day rehab clock. A month? That's nothing to fans who've been longing for a savior since Oct. 17, 2006, when the Yankees spent an ungodly sum of money on a 16-year-old Venezuelan boy named Jesus. I remember thinking to myself on that day: I need to stay calm; he's a good half-decade away from the bigs. In spite of myself, I followed Montero's progress fairly relentlessly over that half-decade, and I know for a fact that I was far from the only Yankee fan to do so. Most of that fanaticism transferred to Michael Pineda following the big trade, and losing him to a potentially career-threatening shoulder surgery last spring was a devastating blow. Now, after a year of waiting, the breathless Pineda Velocity Watch is about to go on a 30-day tour of the minors. I can't wait! When's his next start?
Then again, something tells me I should slow down here. After all, I'm already in the midst of one Massively Ginormous Yankee Starter Velocity Watch, thanks to C.C. Sabathia; can I really handle another? Most of the great religions practice a period of fasting and reflection each year - like the Muslim Ramadan of the Christian Lent - and as a guy with precisely zero self-control, I've always been fascinated by the idea of achieving clarity and peace of mind through self-denial.
With that in mind, I will spend the next month celebrating the festival of Pinedan - a 30-day fast from Michael Pineda velocity reports. This is not a complete fast, mind you, but each day following a Pineda rehab start, from sunup to sundown, I will refrain from reading any reports on Michael Pineda's velocity. Instead, I will spend that time reflecting on the following:
- Maybe, just maybe, I shouldn't get so hung up on these velocity readings. Pineda's fastball velocity is important, of course, but the guy isn't exactly a one-pitch pitcher. During his breakout season in 2011, opposing batters hit his fastball to the tune of a 110 wRC+, but only managed a 49 wRC+ against his devastating slider. As I watched his spring training starts last year, even as I shuddered with each low reading on the radar gun, I couldn't help but be impressed with him off-speed stuff, especially his emerging change up. It's important to remember that Pineda's upside is that of a starter who can strike batters out even without a high-nineties fastball...kind of like, oh, I dunno, CC Sabathia.
- The players Pineda was traded for haven't exactly lit the world on fire. Hector Noesi was sent down to the minors prior to the Yankees series, but he's a far cry from achieving the Jesus Montero Triple Crown of shame: being sent down to the minors, tearing his meniscus and being named in the potentially-damaging Biogenesis report.
- As important Pineda will be for the Yankees' long-term, his return might not help them this season. Yankees starting pitchers already allow the fewest runs per game of any AL team (3.75 runs per game). The rotation really only has half a weak link at the moment - Phil Hughes pitching at home (6.52 Home ERA, as opposed to a 3.44 Road ERA). Perhaps a trade can be made at the deadline, but that's a decision for another day. If anything, the Yankees might as well hand Pineda a bat and see if he can handle right field - we know he has the arm for the position, and it might be nice to have a ex-Mariner right fielder who can hit at even a replacement level for a change.
I'm excited at the prospect of seeing Pineda finally make a start in pinstripes...to damned excited. This is a long process. There will be ups and downs, 98 MPHs and 89 MPHs on radar guns from Tampa to Scranton. It is important to maintain a sense of perspective. So happy Pinedan, Yankee fans, and may peace be with you.