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Yankees’ Michael Pineda Finally Poised For A Comeback

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SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 10: Starting pitcher Michael Pineda #36 of the Seattle Mariners reacts after giving up a two-run homer in the first inning to Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals at Safeco Field on September 10, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. The Royals defeated the Mariners 4-2.

Michael Pineda (Photo Credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

By Rich Arleo

CBS Local Sports, in our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.

Michael Pineda, Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees

2013 season: DNP

When Michael Pineda debuted with the Seattle Mariners in 2011 at age 22, he hit the ground running. The right-hander spun off 10 quality starts in his first 12 games, befuddling hitters with his plus fastball and slider combo and earning a spot in the All-Star Game. The organization lightened his workload a bit in the second half, and he finished with nine wins, 173 strikeouts and a 1.099 WHIP in 171 innings pitched.

It looked as though he was ready to dominate the big leagues for years to come, and then the New York Yankees swooped in. The Yankees dangled their then top prospect, catcher Jesus Montero, and the Mariners bit. At the time the trade was huge news. Two teams swapping two of their best young players is not something you see very often.

Then Pineda arrived at Yankees spring training in 2012 a bit overweight. Before the season, he was put on the DL with tendinitis in his right shoulder. During rehab he suffered a labrum tear and underwent arthroscopic surgery on May 1, 2012. Fast-forward to 2014, and Pineda has still has not pitched in a big league game for the Yankees.

It may seem as though the Mariners fleeced the Yankees, but the story isn’t over yet. Pineda is poised for a comeback this season, while Montero, who has struggled mightily at the plate for the Mariners, arrived at camp overweight.

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Shoulder injuries are always a concern for pitchers, but the Yankees have handled Pineda delicately. He did not throw in 2012 and threw just 40.2 innings in the minors last season. The team avoided calling him up in September, a decision made easier by the team’s struggles. Pineda looked good at times in the minors and ended up with 26 strikeouts, a 3.86 ERA and 3.11 FIP in six starts spanning 23.1 innings.

Still just 25, Pineda entered spring training without the excess weight and is reportedly feeling ‘100 percent.’ He’s considered the leading candidate for the Yankees’ fifth-starter role, and the team is encouraged by how he’s looked early. If all goes to plan and Pineda does actually return to his 2011 form, the team could have a front-end starter pitching out of the five slot, giving them one of the deeper rotations. But that would be a best-case scenario.

Pineda still has a lot to prove. And if he struggles on the mound this spring or can’t stay healthy, the Yankees will look to young arms Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren or David Phelps. Pineda, however, has the highest ceiling of the group. A lot of questions about his future will be answered in the coming weeks.

Next up: Ryan Goins, Toronto Blue Jays

Check out our Fantasy Baseball Preview, breaking down the top players at each position.

Rich Arleo is a Marist College alum who has been a professional writer and editor since graduating in 2010. Find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for more of his sports musings.

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