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Pineda striving for consistency in 2017

MLB.com @BryanHoch

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- "Focus" has been Michael Pineda's mantra this spring, a word whispered in his ear by any number of Yankees coaches as they attempt to correct the mystifying results of a year ago. Applying it to game action is still a work in progress.

Pineda served up a pair of well-struck, first-inning RBI doubles before settling down to complete three innings in his second Grapefruit League start, scattering three hits with a strikeout in New York's 8-7 victory over the Braves at Champion Stadium on Thursday.

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- "Focus" has been Michael Pineda's mantra this spring, a word whispered in his ear by any number of Yankees coaches as they attempt to correct the mystifying results of a year ago. Applying it to game action is still a work in progress.

Pineda served up a pair of well-struck, first-inning RBI doubles before settling down to complete three innings in his second Grapefruit League start, scattering three hits with a strikeout in New York's 8-7 victory over the Braves at Champion Stadium on Thursday.

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"I threw the ball pretty good today, especially my fastball," Pineda said. "I feel very strong today. My first outing, the slider is working great. Today I missed a couple of sliders but everything was good."

The Yankees are never sure exactly what they'll see from Pineda, who allowed two earned runs or fewer in 17 starts last year, but at least five earned runs 11 times. Thursday's outing had the makings of a clunker, as Johan Camargo and Matt Kemp made loud contact early, but Pineda turned it around.

"After that, he put zero, zero, zero," catcher Austin Romine said. "He had guys on and got out of it every inning. The sliders got better in the zone, we threw changeups to left- and right-handed hitters. We accomplished what we wanted to do today and that was throw changeups to everybody and get it going, and really work on getting that slider down."

Last season, Pineda was 6-12 with a 4.82 ERA in 32 starts, setting career highs in innings (175 2/3), starts, strikeouts (207), losses and home runs allowed (27). Manager Joe Girardi said that the most important thing that Pineda can show this spring is consistency.

"We see how dominant he can be," Girardi said. "Some innings can be really, really easy and then he'll get in a little blip. The other thing is, keeping the ball in the ballpark. For Michael, that's big, because he has the ability to strike people out. If he keeps the ball in the ballpark, it's much harder to score runs off him."

Romine is one of many in the organization who believes Pineda will eventually put it all together, observing that Pineda is blessed with good movement on his fastball, a disappearing slider and a changeup that showed good action on Thursday.

"Everybody knows his stuff," Romine said. "You guys write about his stuff all the time. Everybody knows. I catch him all the time. It's fun to catch. When you come to the yard catching him, it's fun. It could be crazy numbers that he puts up that day. He has that kind of stuff."

Worth noting

Girardi has taken note of Jordan Montgomery and believes that the left-hander could help the team in the Major Leagues this year. The 6-foot-6 Montgomery is rated as the Yankees' No. 13 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, and Girardi speaks highly of his slider, curveball and changeup command.

"We think there's a pretty high ceiling for this kid," Girardi said. "I think he's reacted well to Spring Training, his first time being in camp, and I think he pitched in the College World Series [for South Carolina], which probably helped him in a situation like this. He's been pretty impressive."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Michael Pineda