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Yankees encouraged by Pineda's performance

Right-hander holds Blue Jays to two runs in his first start of the season

NEW YORK -- The Yankees have only been able to imagine what kind of production they will receive with a full season from right-hander Michael Pineda. New York acquired him from Seattle during the 2011-12 offseason, but Pineda made just his 14th start as a member of the Yankees on Wednesday due to a plethora of injuries.

Pineda entered the 2015 season feeling healthier than he has in a while, and he could wind up being the Yankees' best starting pitcher. Although he did not factor in the decision during New York's 4-3 victory against the Blue Jays, he turned in a solid outing once again -- surrendering two runs on six hits with six strikeouts in six innings.

Pineda has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 13 of his 14 starts with the Yankees. A cold and rainy night at Yankee Stadium did not do him any favors, but Pineda battled through the weather. His only issue this outing was the fact that he said the mound got a little sloppy as the game went on and the rain continued.

"It's hard, but you have to make adjustments on the mound and play the game," Pineda said.

He cruised through the first two innings before running into some trouble in the third. Kevin Pillar led off the inning with an infield single and advanced to third on a double to right field by the next batter, Justin Smoak. Another infield hit, this time off the bat of Devon Travis, gave the Blue Jays the first run of the night and left runners on first and second. Pineda retired the next three batters, forcing Jose Reyes to fly out to right field, then striking out Russell Martin and Jose Bautista.

"He did a great job, and Michael has that ability because he has the ability to strike people out," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It comes down to being the difference in the game."

Pineda is showing that, when healthy, he could be ready to become the Yankees' ace. Masahiro Tanaka, who partially tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in July, struggled in his first outing this year, and CC Sabathia, who will start Thursday, is coming off knee surgery. That leaves Pineda, whom Girardi said is a much different person now than he was during his first spring as a Yankee, when he tore the anterior labrum in his right shoulder, which sidelined him for all of the 2012 season.

"I think when you go through some of the things that he went through, you're going to mature," Girardi said. "He had a pretty serious injury, he bounced back and I think he grew up a lot through that. I think during that time, too, his mechanics improved dramatically, which has really helped him."

Jamal Collier is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.
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