Michael Pineda ran into the first real trouble he's had during his rehab starts this afternoon pitching for the Trenton Thunder in Binghamton. In three innings of work, the big right-hander gave up four hits that turned into four runs, walked four batters, and allowed two home runs. Pineda's outing lasted 67 pitches, 32 of which were strikes.
In his rehab starts prior to today, Pineda had only given up one earned run which came when he was pitching for the High-A Tampa Yankees. Today's four walks also brings his rehab period total to six in 17.1 innings between the two different levels. Pineda has also struck out 15 batters since starting his rehab outings. All told, he's done extremely well for a pitcher returning from labrum surgery.
I believe Michael Pineda has eight days left on this rehab assignment. An option to Triple-A at the end wouldn't be much of a surprise.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughSL) June 30, 2013
The 30-day clock on rehab assignments lasts only just a little more than a week longer for Pineda, forcing the Yankees to make a decision on his next destination pretty soon. Brian Cashman has said from the beginning that Pineda will either be optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or be brought up to the majors once his rehab assignment is complete. With the pitching situation in the Bronx perhaps not looking as strong as it once did with the struggles of Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, and David Phelps, Pineda could possibly represent an upgrade in the rotation. Unfortunately, he is still likely going to need work on building up his pitch count, which will likely need to take place at the minor league level.
If Pineda does replace someone in the Yankees rotation, there is reason to be concerned that it might not be the pitcher who was struggling most, but the pitcher who is just the least cemented into the rotation in their eyes, and that seems like it might be Phelps, whether he is the most deserving or not. With the offense seriously lacking the firepower of seasons past, the Yankees have to be able to depend on the pitching, and Pineda may be able to really boost the strength of that a bit once he's back to 100% on the mound.