Despite loss, Pineda's debut a success
In first start since 2011, right-hander fans five and allows just one run
TORONTO -- The Yankees were thrilled to see right-hander Michael Pineda wearing their uniform on a big league mound, firing with a free and easy motion. After Pineda had dropped off the radar for two seasons, this was the best evidence yet that he can still play a big role in their future plans.
Pineda's first Yankees start went into the books as a rousing success thanks to six innings of one-run ball, but his teammates weren't quite as sharp. R.A. Dickey and three Toronto relievers stymied the heart of New York's batting order, and the Blue Jays posted a 4-0 victory on Saturday at Rogers Centre.
The losing decision did not diminish the 25-year-old Pineda's glee; after spending far too much time at the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla., rehabbing a surgically repaired right labrum, he said that this had been "a big day."
"I'm very happy about everything, because everything is doing good, and that's what I'm looking for," said Pineda, who struck out five and walked none in an 83-pitch outing. "I've been working hard for the last two years to be here, and I'm happy with it."
Pineda's fastball was clocked as high as 95 mph, a few ticks higher than the Yankees saw it this spring, but that adrenaline didn't transfer to the lineup. Dickey used his trademark knuckleball to blank the Yankees over 6 2/3 innings, scattering five hits and striking out six.
The heart of New York's lineup -- Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Alfonso Soriano -- combined to go 0-for-12 with three strikeouts, twice short-circuiting late rallies after the Yankees were able to set runners at first and second base with none out.
"We're struggling a little bit," manager Joe Girardi said. "We had some opportunities today, and maybe the game is a little different if we cash in, but that's just part of the game. We'll get some guys going, and we'll start putting up some crooked numbers."
After five games, the Yankees are still looking for their first home run of the season. Soriano, who is off to an 0-for-16 start, believes the power will start to flicker soon.
"They know how to pitch now. It's hard now to hit a homer, especially the way they pitch," Soriano said. "You make adjustments, and it's a long season. I know that when everybody gets ready at home plate, those homers are going to come."
Even with no support behind him, Pineda dazzled. He said he was "so excited" to be back in a big league game, pitching for the organization that acquired him in a January 2012 trade with the Mariners.
"I'm sure it means a lot, because he's put a lot of work in over the last two years," manager Joe Girardi said. "He spent entirely too much time in that Florida sunshine. I'm sure he's really pleased with where he's at."
Toronto built a lead in the second inning, when Adam Lind doubled and scored on Josh Thole's single. That held up as the only run of the game until Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista crushed homers off reliever David Phelps in the eighth.
"[Pineda] was great. I cannot ask for anything else," catcher Francisco Cervelli said. "I couldn't wait to see him back on the mound in the big leagues."
An All-Star as a rookie with Seattle, Pineda was making his first Major League appearance since Sept. 21, 2011. He showed the Jays a sharp slider and mixed in an improved changeup, retiring 13 of the final 14 batters he faced.
New York came closest to pushing across a run in the third inning, but Cervelli was tagged out at home on a one-hop throw from Colby Rasmus on Jacoby Ellsbury's two-out single to center field.
That play was reviewed by the umpires, who confirmed the original call on the field by Dana DeMuth, who ruled that Thole gave Cervelli a proper path to the plate.
New York had other missed chances that did not involve the rulebook. In the sixth, with two on and none out, Beltran hit into a double play and McCann lined out, letting Dickey wriggle free.
The Yanks reset the situation in the eighth, but this time Beltran struck out and McCann tapped out against Brett Cecil before Soriano struck out on a Sergio Santos pitch that bounced.
Pineda did not seem to have any difficulty turning the page. Without looking at a schedule, he knew exactly where his next start will be in five days. That, too, is something he has been looking forward to.
"My next start is in Yankee Stadium," said Pineda, who will have the ball on April 10 against the Red Sox. "I've been waiting for two years to pitch in Yankee Stadium."