With Michael Pineda, 'stuff' has never been the problem

TAMPA — Michael Pineda has Cy Young-caliber stuff.

His fastball. His slider. His changeup. All potentially dominant pitches.

CC Sabathia knows it. Pineda knows it, too.

“I always come in and say this is the year he’s going to win the Cy Young,” Sabathia said Tuesday. “He’s got so much talent, and he just needs to put it all together but he’s right there.”

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Told of Sabathia’s praise a day later, Pineda laughed and smiled. “Yeah, I know I have that ability,” he said.

The Yankees traded highly-toutedprospect-turned-flameout Jesus Montero for Pineda in January 2012 with those hopes in mind. It just hasn’t materialized on a consistent basis.

There have been significant injuries. The pinetar incident, too.

In three seasons with the Bombers, Pineda is 23-27 with a 4.10 ERA.

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Now, the 28-year-old righty heads into his all-important walk year ($7.4 million) after a season in which he went 6-12 with a 4.82 ERA despite striking out 207 in 175.2 innings. He surrendered 27 home runs, yet fielding-independent metrics like FIP (3.80, 25th) and xFIP (3.30, third) — where he rated highly among qualified MLB starters — suggest he’s a candidate for a bounce-back season.

“I’m not putting that pressure in my head,” Pineda said of the chance to pitch for a big deal in free agency. “I just want to give my team an opportunity to win games every five days, and when the season is over and you look at your numbers, you feel good and you’re proud of yourself.”

Pitching with two outs was a problem. Opposing hitters batted .234/.284/.403 off Pineda with no outs and .231/.292/.370 against him with one out. However, with two outs, they knocked him around to the tune of .325/.383/.598.

“For me, watching my games last season and watching everything, this year I need to be more focused when there’s two outs,” said Pineda, who agreed that he needs to trust his change more. “I need to be a better finisher.”

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The whole thing is pretty baffling to Joe Girardi.

“Some people are going to think it’s a focus issue, some people are going to think that maybe it’s bad luck,” Girardi said. “It’s hard to look at Michael’s numbers and understand how he was 6-12 with the ERA he had, when you look at the strikeouts and the command that he has. We scratch our heads sometimes with Michael.

“It’s something that we continue to remind him, to finish innings. ... Those two-out runs seem to be harder to recover from than maybe if you give up a solo homer to the first hitter or the second hitter. It just seems there’s something about giving up two-out runs that is harder for your club. It’s something that we’re aware of and we talk to him about.”

Pineda says he wants to remain a Yankee, although he has “no control” over the situation. Not exactly. A big year could mean big bucks in the Bronx. 

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