We've reached the second week of spring training games, and the competition for the 5th spot in the rotation is well under way. Vidal Nuno, David Phelps and Adam Warren have each already had a chance to start a game, and Michael Pineda is finally going to get a chance to throw his hat into the ring. Pineda will make his spring training debut in Friday's game, where he is expected to pitch three innings. No word yet on whether he will actually start the game or come out of the bullpen in the 4th inning, as Hiroki Kuroda is also set to pitch three innings on Friday.
Pineda threw two simulated innings on Sunday, pitching to Scott Sizemore and Zoilo Almonte. Sizemore actually played against Pineda during the latter's rookie year in Seattle, so he is familiar with the pitcher that Pineda was prior to the shoulder injury. Following the simulated game, Sizemore had nothing but good things to say. "...today the ball was popping out of his hand. He has different movement on his fastballs, almost...Sometimes he cuts it, sometimes he sinks it, sometimes it's a true four-seamer." Catcher Peter O'Brien also commented that Pineda is getting sharper, and that he isn't afraid to go in on lefties or righties. He added that, "Every time I caught him, I was telling one of the other guys, it looks like he’s turned it up a notch every single time."
Larry Rothschild was calling balls and strikes behind the mound during the sim game, and they weren't using a radar gun, but Sizemore said he believed that Pineda was throwing in the low to mid-90s. With the Mariners in 2011, Pineda's fastball averaged 94.2 mph. Though he only threw them about 6.8% of the time according to FanGraphs, his two-seamer averaged 96.7 mph, and his cutter averaged 95. What Sizemore had to say about Pineda obviously doesn't count for much in the realm of things (I mean, what is he, a human radar gun?), but it is still nice to hear and makes me feel cautiously optimistic that Pineda might finally make it into some games at the major-league level this season.
Friday's game will be against the Tigers at 7:05 PM, so you might want to consider cancelling your plans in order to stay home and
watch listen to Pineda fight for a spot in the rotation.