(When is somebody going to get a shot of one of Pineda's flat ground sessions? Courtesy of the AP)
Michael Pineda still has a long uphill battle to fight to get back on the field, back to full or as close to full game shape as he can be after his labrum injury, and back into the good graces of the Yankee fan base, but the updates on his comeback progress continue to be positive. Brian Heyman of LoHud had the latest details on Friday, including information on Pineda's latest follow-up visit with team doctors, confirmation that he's been on his flat ground throwing program for about 2 months now, and a quote from Brian Cashman on Pineda's arm action in the throwing session looking good and that "he’s in great physical shape in terms of body weight."
All of those are positives for Pineda, who got himself in trouble early in ST last season for reportedly coming into camp in less-than-ideal physical condition. But has this latest round of updates changed the planned return timetable for him?
Not from where Cash is standing. In addition to praising Pineda for his physical conditioning, Cash stood by the recent comments made about Pineda's return schedule and reiterated that the Yankees aren't counting on Pineda for anything next season. As I've previously stated, if that does turn out to be the case then that trade will end up going down as one of the black marks on Cash's record, but I still believe these statements are the organization's way of tempering expectations. The belief is still that Pineda will be able to return to game situation pitching in June, and assuming that means MiL rehab starts to get back into a groove, a return to a Major League mound sometime in July or August seems reasonable.
If that does end up being the case, Pineda could turn into the 2013 version of Andy Pettitte, some extra rotation insurance that could come in handy if and when guys start to struggle or get injured. With CC coming back healthy, Kuroda re-signed, Hughes, Nova, and Phelps in the fold, and Andy presumably coming to a decision this next week (a decision I believe will be to return for 1 more year), the Yankees will enter camp in 2013 with 6 starters and that's before they go out and try to add another low-cost scrap heap arm for added depth or take another look at Adam Warren.
Whether Pineda comes back this season or not, the Yanks should be in good shape depth-wise. If he continues to move forward positively with his rehab and does come back, that's just one more bullet in the Yanks' rotation gun and one that could be capable of outperforming the other guys in the back end of the rotation.