Monday, March 9, 2015

Pineda, Eovaldi strong in Yankees' victory

The New York Yankees have to be pleased with Monday’s performances from Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi, as the young guns combined for five scoreless innings in the club’s 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Rays at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. It is early, but there is reason to believe both pitchers can parlay strong spring performances into success during the regular season.

It was Pineda’s first start of the spring and he looked quite good. He threw 25 pitches in all, pounding the strike zone as was the case much of last season. Pineda allowed one hit and struck out two along the way. In the second inning Pineda induced three easy groundballs to finish off a smooth and relaxed performance.

Pineda’s importance to the Yankees in 2015 cannot be understated. If he is able to remain healthy and pitches to his abilities he could be a mainstay at the the top of the rotation.

Not only is his performance and durability important for this season, but for the next few seasons as he remains under team control through 2017. Pineda, 26, being able to make 30+ starts in consecutive seasons would truly benefit the Yankees’ long-term plans.

It won't be easy for Pineda who has been saddled with shoulder issues for much of his career. His career high for innings pitched was 171 in 2011. He threw just 76.1 inning in 2014. But, the Yankees are hopeful he can turn the corner in this respect.

For Eovaldi, it was his second turn on the mound this spring and he once again showed an electric fastball in the 95-98 mph range along with a very good curveball. Eovaldi struck out five batters and allowed three hits in his three innings of work.

Eovaldi’s curve might be as important as his fastball this season. The Yankees want his curve and a newly developed splitter to be strong in order to make the fastball even more difficult to catch up with. Eovaldi has allowed just one run in five innings this spring.

Eovaldi, who came over in a trade with the Miami Marlins in the offseason, looks to be the fourth starter in the rotation assuming good health for CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka. The 25-year-old right-hander gave up a league high 223 hits in 2014, but plenty of scouts believe with some work Eovaldi has significant upside. Thus far this spring Eovaldi has shown some signs that his extra efforts with pitching coach Larry Rothschild might be paying off.

Without both of these hurlers remaining constant and effective members of the rotation in 2015, the Yankees will have difficulty being among the leaders in the American League East race.

Photo of Michael Pineda courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer and sports media strategist. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly Closer Report column. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.