Right off the bat, let me admit that I wasn't expecting to see Michael Pineda again this season. I think a combination of both his 2+ injury plagued seasons as a Yankee and this season making it seem like "starting pitcher" is one of the most hazardous professions on Earth just set my expectations to zero. The setback during his rehab certainly didn't help. But showing that baseball is not just one crushing disappointment after another, Pineda worked his way back and took the mound Wednesday night against the Orioles. The short and sweet of it is that you couldn't have hoped for any better than what he gave you.
It was only five innings of work, but while Pineda was out there you would have a hard time telling that it had been months since he appeared The numbers were obviously sparkling: 5 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. Against one of the best hitting teams in one of the best hitters' parks, that's quite a performance. Even beyond the numbers, the most pleasing aspect of Pineda's start was that from a scouting perspective he looked just as good as he did earlier on in the season. His fastball sat comfortably in the mid to low 90's with plenty of late life that helped keep the opposing hitters from squaring up. Of course Pineda's calling card is his nasty slider, and boy was it nice to see that lovely offering again. It made the O's hitters look downright silly at times. There were no signs of fatigue, either, which is another good sign. He could have easily worked another inning if asked, but Joe Girardi smartly played his safe with Pineda and didn't push him any further. There was obviously more to consider than just the final result of the game.
Another less important but still positive effect of the brief but brilliant performance from Pineda is that the pine tar issue is now dead and buried. He didn't use it, didn't need it and was outstanding. End of story. Now it won't stop outlets like ESPN from excavating the topic's corpse and parading it out around for 30 minutes so they can blather about it. But as far as you or I are should be concerned, i.e. logical people, it's just something you no longer need to be worried about moving forward. The start grants peace of mind in the matter.
Pineda's obviously going to be a factor this year as the Yankees attempt to keep their playoff hopes from going off of life support. Most importantly, though, this was a big start for the Yankees future. A still young, cost-controlled pitcher with the caliber of stuff Pineda has is the type of asset that teams love to have. Even the Yankees don't want to spend 20 million dollars at every position, so surplus production from a guy like Pineda can be critical. His injury history prevents you from writing his name into the Yankees' plans in anything other than pencil, but at least now we can be optimistic about him moving forward.