There was a lot to be excited about after the Yankees traded for Michael Pineda in January. Sure, it cost them their best hitting prospect since Derek Jeter and a useful arm for the bullpen or rotation, but the return that Pineda represented was worth it. He was a big, power pitcher still years before his physical prime with a year of success at the Major League level already under his belt and many years of team control at minimal cost. Pineda was exactly what the Yankees were looking for to solidify their rotation for the present and the future, and the idea of him and CC anchoring the top of that rotation for the next handful of years was certainly worth salivating over. After the latest setback in his Extended ST rehab start on Saturday, however, it's starting to look more and more like 2012 is going to be a lost season for Pineda.
The dye contrast MRI that was scheduled for yesterday was pushed back to today, so we still don't know the extent of the damage to Pineda's right shoulder. But it's a safe bet that given the amount of time he rested before starting to work his way back from the initial injury and the results of his Ext. ST outing, we won't be seeing him back in May or any time soon. Naturally, the comparisons to Phil Hughes' 2011 season are going to be made, and it wouldn't be completely unfair to make them. Like Hughes last year, Pineda came into camp this year not in the best shape, experienced a decrease in fastball velocity that he never regained, and ended up on the DL with shoulder problems.
After seeing how long it took Hughes to make his way back to the rotation (and then the bullpen) last year, I'm already resigning myself to the likelihood of Pineda spending more time on the DL this season than on the mound. With all the problems the Yankee rotation has had to start the year- CC's early fastball command problems, Kuroda's roller coaster 3 outings, Hughes' continued struggles, and Freddy's freefall regression from last year- the negatives of that scenario playing out with Pineda become magnified. The Yankee rotation was supposed to be a strength for the team this season, something that couldn't be said definitively about previous versions of the rotation going back many years, and Pineda was supposed to be a big (if not the biggest) part of that because of what he brought to the table. Now, not only is he not bringing anything to the table, he's probably not even going to be sitting at the table for an extended period of time.
Beyond the baseball reasons, the personal bummer from a fan perspective is also tremendously disappointing when it comes to Pineda. I was very excited after the trade, probably more excited than I've ever been about a Yankee pitching acquisition. Sure, CC was a huge deal when he signed a few years ago, but he was already an established name by then. I knew what type of pitcher he was from watching him pitch against the Yanks for years in Cleveland and from watching him single-handedly carry the Brewers to the postseason in the summer of '08 when I first moved out to Wisconsin. Pineda was still a relatively new commodity in the baseball world when the trade happened and definitely new to me. The only time I had seen him was when he threw an inning in the All Star Game last year and I remember being impressed watching him K Scott Rolen and Rickie Weeks. But as I started to read up on him after the trade, looking more closely at his numbers and realizing how rare it was for someone as young as him to have the results and pitching profile he already possessed, I was hooked. I was already coming up with Photoshop ideas for him and was one of his biggest supporters through his ST struggles. To have him out of action and not be able to watch him pitch now sucks. Big time. It's like getting a Playstation 4 or Xbox 720 years before it's even supposed to be on the market and then being told you can't play with it.
As I write this post, the MRI on his shoulder has still not taken place. There's no way to know exactly what the results are going to be, but whatever they end up revealing the likelihood is that the Yankees are going to be even more cautious and careful with Pineda and his rehab than they already had been, especially with the memory of Hughes' problems last year still fresh in people's minds. That probably means no Pineda this summer at least, and possibly more time spent on the DL and rehab trail beyond that. It would be unfair to try to predict how the rest of Pineda's Yankee career will play out after the disappointing start, and even more unfair to judge the trade based on these events. But with Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi both healthy and playing for Seattle and Pineda and his bum shoulder riding the pine in New York for the foreseeable future, it's fair to say that the Yankees will be the losers of the deal for 2012.