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Michael Pineda Panic in the Sky

When he managed the Toledo Mud Hens, Casey Stengel was once trying to interest the New York Giants in buying one of his pitching prospects. During a showcase performance, the pitcher was shelled. On a visit to the mound, Stengel told the hurler to grab his arm. "Make out like you’re hurt," he said. "I want to get you out of here with dignity."

I’m not so cynical as to suggest that Michael Pineda’s shoulder tendinitis is the equivalent of Stengel’s attempt to preserve the value of Roy Parmelee, but it certainly has the same benefit. The ongoing saga of Pineda’s diminished velocity now has, at least in theory, a beginning, middle, and end: injury, loss of speed, and recovery. We can’t assume any of that, of course, but if you would like to put to rest, at least in your own mind, the thought that the Yankees were somehow badly burnt in trading Jesus Montero, that’s the way to go.

That determination is itself an act of faith. Chad Jennings framed the questions well: Did the injury cause the velocity dip, or is that just a coincidence? Did it come from Pineda trying to make up lost velocity, and once he heals, will the velocity come back? Mushrooms on pizza, why is that so divisive ,even among people who normally get along?

So, now the mystery: when does Pineda come back, and is this a Phil Hughes thing that lasts all season? I would vote for "No," except for Pineda’s second half last year, when he dove down to a 5.00 ERA. That ERA wasn’t completely consistent with his peripherals, and he was wrapping up a season in which he jumped about 32 innings, so maybe it was just simple fatigue at work… or perhaps what is happening now was already happening then.

Underlying that question is another: does every decline in pitcher velocity manifest in a detectable physical problem, or can a drop in velocity be an innocent, transient problem, and does it even matter? Pineda was performing well this spring until his final start, so perhaps the last velocity wouldn’t even have been an issue. Velocity is not an end in and of itself: many pitchers have thrown hard and been ineffective. Meanwhile, Jamie Moyer rolls on, at least through spring training.

For more on the Yankees and Pineda by yours truly, see my new crib at Bleacher Report.

And Miles to Go Before I Sleep
If you feel like talking some baseball with me and the great Jay Jaffe and are in the New York City area on Thursday evening, here’s your chance:

Thursday is Opening Day, and while the occasion doesn't need any additional embellishments, we have one for New York City-area Baseball Prospectus readers: at 7:30 PM, Steven Goldman and I will be reading from our latest tome, Extra Innings, which officially hits the streets this week. We'll be doing so as part of the Gelf Magazine monthly Varsity Letters series, which played host to Steve and Jonah Keri back in 2007, when Extra Innings' prequel, the popular Baseball Between the Numbers, was the newest game in town.

The event will take place at The Gallery at Le Poisson Rouge at 158 Bleecker Street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village (between Thompson and Sullivan Streets; see the map here), so of course Steve will be modeling his collection of berets while playing the upright bass to accompany my readings of jazz poetry (OKAY, OKAY, we promise none of that if you actually show up). We'll have books for sale, and are hoping to arrange a means of giving away a free copy or two. I should also point out that Le Poisson Rouge is a bar, so you'll be able to quench your thirst while we read, though please note that I will be grading you on the brand of beer you drink, using the traditional 20-80 scouting scale.