Pineda's about to be on the clock

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Michael Pineda threw three simulated innings and 45 simulated pitches in Tampa today, and his next stop is a real game, of the minor league variety, on Sunday.

That will start the 30-day rehab clock that will culminate, hopefully, in Pineda's return to the Yankees sometime in August.

Joe Girardi said Pineda will pitch "somewhere" on Sunday, probably throwing in the neighborhood of 60-65 pitches, with his workload gradually increasing from there, assuming there are no setbacks, of which there have already been at least two in his recovery from a lat strain below his right shoulder.

Because of that, Girardi would not hazard a guess as to when Pineda might be ready to return -- "Whatever they say he needs is what it is. I'm not going to put a number on it," he said. -- but it is safe to assume he will need at least three rehab starts, and probably more, to get his pitch count up above 90 before he could be reactivated. That likely means a mid- to late-August return at the earliest.

That could serve as the equivalent of a late-season trade-deadline acquisition, which would be a significant boost for the Yankees' injury-depleted rotation.

“I don’t ever think it hurts," Girardi said. "It’s hard to tell where we’ll be when it’s his turn to come off, where we’ll physically be. But as we’ve seen, you can never have too many starters.”

Pineda was 2-2 with a 1.83 ERA when he went on the DL on May 6 following a 10-game suspension for using pine tar in a game against the Red Sox on April 23 in Boston.