There was no radar gun in the stands and no batter at the plate. It was just Michael Pineda, on a bullpen mound, throwing 35 pitches in front of manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
It might have been the most significant thing to happen in Yankees camp on Monday.
“I thought the ball was coming out easier (than in previous years),” Girardi said. “I know he’s had time to clean up a couple things too, mechanically, in this two-year span. He just looked like it came out free and easy to me.”
Two years after acquiring him in a high-profile trade with the Mariners, this might finally be the year that the Yankees actually see Pineda pitch in New York. The big, hard-throwing right-hander had shoulder surgery in 2012 and has been working his way back ever since, but this year he’s considered a strong candidate for the open spot in the Yankees rotation.
“I’m throwing the same (as before shoulder surgery),” Pineda said. “Mechanics the same. Everything is the same. All pitches are the same. I’m the same Michael Pineda.”
The old Pineda came to the Yankees as a 23-year-old coming off a standout rookie season in Seattle. The Yankees traded away top hitting prospect Jesus Montero believing they were swapping an elite young bat for an elite young arm, but Pineda was hurt before the end of his first spring with the team.
This spring, the Yankees have been encouraged by the ease with which Pineda, now 25, seems to be throwing his fastball, slider and changeup combination. They haven’t measured velocity yet, but Pineda said he feels as strong as ever, and he’s certainly as hopeful as ever.
“I’m happy because I’m going to make the team and help my team pitching in New York,” Pineda said. “…It’s a long process when you have surgery. It’s a really long process, but I’m good right now.”
Early arrivals: Position players won’t officially report to camp until Wednesday, but infielders Brian Roberts, Brendan Ryan, Kelly Johnson and Russ Canzler each moved into their lockers on Monday, and veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran took batting practice at the team’s minor-league complex.
“Thank God I’m healthy and thank God I feel good,” Beltran said. “I’m just looking forward to going out and doing my part, doing my job. I don’t want to get caught up in thinking too much, trying to come here to impress. I don’t need to impress anybody, I just need to be smart and do what I need to do.”
Facing hitters: Fifteen Yankees pitchers threw to hitters on Monday, including fifth starter candidates David Phelps and Adam Warren, who had already thrown one round of live batting practice even before camp opened.
“That fifth spot is going to have to be earned,” Girardi said.
Yankee clippings: Mark Teixeira again took batting practice outside. “I thought he looked pretty normal to me from both sides,” Girardi said. … Delayed by visa issues, Japanese reliever Yoshinori Tateyama finally joined Yankees camp on Monday. … Everyone healthy so far? “Yeah, including me,” Girardi said.