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New Yankee Pineda (or is it Pinata?) inviting ridicule for slow pitches


TAMPA -- New York Yankees starter Michael Pineda isn't blowing opposing hitters away this spring. Instead, it's just the opposite: He's inspiring shock in some corners of his own camp with some unimposing radar readings. The Yankees still hope they received a potential ace in the mega-trade of young talents with Seattle for Jesus Montero, but they haven't seen that guy yet. Not even close.

Instead, the high number for the right-handed Pineda came at the weigh-in, and Pineda revealed later he weighed 280 pounds, 20 more than his listed weight and only 10 less than ace CC Sabathia. Pineda said he's lost "a few pounds'' since then, and manager Joe Girardi said he's down but declined to say how much.

The radar readings are the big thing, though. Pineda threw about 90 mph in his first start and was slightly better than that in his second start, but Yankees people were expecting him to be throwing in the mid-90s at least. Girardi put a good spin on it, saying he hit 92 and wasn't worried because it was just the first time, and Girardi had an even better spin the second time, mentioning the slight in game two improvement as a positive sign.

"It's two starts. If it was his fifth start, then that would be different,'' Girardi said. "The reason everyone's talking about it is because of the Phil Hughes situation last spring.''

Hughes was throwing in the mid-80s in spring training and never came around, suffering through almost a lost year under mysterious circumstances.

Girardi also mentioned how Pineda is only 23 and a Yankee for the first time, so there's a bit of the unknown at play. But Girardi admitted, "You want his arm strength to be there.''

While Girardi is putting as good a face as possible on Pineda's performance thus far, others around camp have marveled at how little power he has shown with his 6-foot-7, 280-pound (a little less now) frame. Pineda has become a bit of a pinata in backroom conversations around Yankees camp.

Folks everwhere loved the trade when it was made. Now some around Yankees camp are having their doubts.

Pineda was the Yankees' marquee pickup of the winter, so there's a lot riding on him, though officials were careful not to hand him a rotation spot at the start of spring (CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda are the only two who were officially guaranteed a spot). But it would be a stunner if the pitcher who struck out more than a batter an inning in his rookie year in Seattle didn't make the rotation. Overall, he was 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA with Seattle in 2011.

For his part, Pineda said, "it's kind of early'' to judge radar readings and maintained that he was throwing "pretty good.'' He gets another chance Thursday against the Nationals in Viera. That's his third start, so things are starting to get a little more serious.
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