TAMPA, Fla. -- Joe Girardi thought he saw a different Michael Pineda early Tuesday morning. As the 6-foot-7, 260-pound great right hope fired away during his initial bullpen session of the spring, the manger noticed a smoothness to his delivery that wasn't present in 2011.
"I thought the ball was coming out easier," Girardi said of Pineda's 35 pitches. "I know he’s had time to clean up a couple things too, mechanically, in this two-year span. He just looked like it came out free and easy to me. It didn’t look like he put a ton of effort into it, or that he was overthrowing it."
Pineda has gone from an essential part of the Yankees' future to a wild card. Two years after being acquired for Jesus Montero, Pineda itches to throw in the Bronx for the first time. He said his surgically repaired shoulder feels ready to show the Yankees the stuff that made him an All-Star as a rookie in 2011.
"I'm the same Michael Pineda," said the 25-year-old, who was at 93-94 by end of 2013 in the minors, a few ticks below where he used to be with the Mariners.
Actually, he may be able to handle what comes with being an important Yankee. Pineda seems a bit more comfortable in the clubhouse than when he arrived in 2011.
"My English is better right now," Pineda said. "Before I got a little nervous because I didn't want to do something wrong. I'm always scared for that because I want to speak something good. I always say, 'My English is not very good, but I try.'"
"I think he is in great shape," said Sabathia, who knows a thing or two these days about slimming down. "He is a big kid. He is a kid. So I think people made a huge deal out of his weight that first year. That's what he pitched with. Coming from someone who did it for a lot of years, you can do it, it is no problem. He looks like he is in great shape. I know he has been working his tail off for the last year and a half."
If Pineda doesn't win a starting job, the Yankees should -- and surely will -- send him to Triple-A to prepare for a call-up as a starter at some point during the year.
Pineda, who said he has never pitched out of the bullpen, said he would be fine as a starter or a reliever, as long as he in the majors. But, to me, he is either the fifth starter or fighting to be the first starter called up from Triple-A when an injury inevitably happens.