No surprises this afternoon as Joe Girardi announced that Michael Pineda would begin the season as the Yankees' fifth starter after a spring training battle with David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Vidal Nuno. Pineda had to always be considered the favorite because of the upside he presents that caused the Yankees to trade their top prospect in Jesus Montero for him a few seasons back. That was before labrum surgery derailed two seasons for Pineda, but his strong showing in spring made any other decision for fifth starter highly unlikely.
Phelps, Warren, and Nuno each have some experience pitching out of the bullpen and will be vying for a spot on the team as the long reliever. It's highly unlikely that all three will have a place on the team when they break camp over the weekend, but it wouldn't be a shock to see both Phelps and Warren on the team in some capacity. No team really makes it through a season needing only five starters, and those guys will play an important part on the team. That is doubly true with Pineda almost certainly not being immediately able to resume a full workload.
No set innings limit for Pineda, Girardi said. Will be a fluid situation.— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) March 25, 2014
Handling Pineda's return this way seems like a best case scenario. Taking his limitation start by start instead of placing a hard cap on his innings right out of spring training sounds like a good way to handle it without drifting into Joba Rules territory.
Girardi says Pineda impressed from the start, was better than he expected him to be this spring— Daniel Barbarisi (@DanBarbarisi) March 25, 2014
Pineda's impressive spring has been a comforting sight after the severity of a torn labrum. It's unlikely that we'll see the 97-98 mph velocity he had when he was a rookie in Seattle, but Pineda proved this spring he can still be effective with the fastball he has. That's important, especially for a young pitcher.
The back of the Yankees' rotation is fully stocked with young, promising talent. Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka, and Pineda is a really intriguing core of pitchers that have the ability to dazzle when all goes right for them. For all of the talk about the Yankee team being quite old, there's a lot to hope for with the future of their rotation in the form of three very young pitchers that will be around for quite some time.