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Adjusted mechanics adding bite to Pineda's slider

Right-hander goes seven strong innings in win over Angels
MLB.com

NEW YORK -- It was a simple gesture, one shared by teammates dozens of times during the season. Right-hander Michael Pineda's season has been far from simple, though. He entered his 12th start Tuesday night with a 6.41 ERA, considered the weak link of the Yankees' starting rotation prior to New York's 6-3 win over the Angels.

Moments after Pineda had addressed the assembled media postgame, he was thumbing through his cell phone when left-hander Andrew Miller walked by, stopped at his locker and offered a high-five.

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NEW YORK -- It was a simple gesture, one shared by teammates dozens of times during the season. Right-hander Michael Pineda's season has been far from simple, though. He entered his 12th start Tuesday night with a 6.41 ERA, considered the weak link of the Yankees' starting rotation prior to New York's 6-3 win over the Angels.

Moments after Pineda had addressed the assembled media postgame, he was thumbing through his cell phone when left-hander Andrew Miller walked by, stopped at his locker and offered a high-five.

Full Game Coverage

"I feel better," Pineda said after scattering a season-low four hits over a season-high seven innings. "I feel more happy. I helped my team and pitched a good game and won the game. That's what I'm looking for."

Pineda put together his best start of the season, earning the win and allowing three earned runs. It was a far cry from his nightmare outings of April and May, when the big righty's presence evoked uncertainty.

Now, with two consecutive solid outings (he allowed one earned run in 5 2/3 innings against Detroit on June 2), Pineda is giving manager Joe Girardi a reason to believe his worst days are behind him.

"When Michael is on, he can be really dominant," Girardi said. "I'm hoping this continues a roll for him."

Video: LAA@NYY: Girardi on Pineda in 6-3 win

Pineda attributed the turnaround to adjusting his mechanics. Before the start against the Tigers, he tried out a lower arm angle, which he said makes his slider cut more.

"Me and [pitching coach] Larry Rothschild are always talking and always working together. We're watching a lot of video," Pineda said. "We found a little bit, move a little bit of my arm and he said it's a better angle for my fastball and for my slider, too."

Catcher Austin Romine wasn't aware Pineda had made the adjustment.

"Whatever they did, it helped him out extremely," Romine said. "He's able to throw the ball down in the zone and repeat it, and his slider had more depth to it."

Pineda started off strong, allowing two baserunners through the first three innings. It proved significant, considering opponents had hit him well through the first third of the game prior to Tuesday: first inning (.500 batting average), second inning (.353) and third inning (.273).

Video: LAA@NYY: A-Rod on Yankees' recent successes

When he did encounter trouble in the fifth, he kept his cool. After allowing a two-out two-run homer to Kole Calhoun on a hanging changeup that cut the Yankees' lead to 5-3, he returned to the mound, and, after a quick visit from Rothschild, prepared to face star center fielder Mike Trout.

Two fastballs and a slider later, Pineda was walking back to the dugout after inducing a groundout to end the frame.

"When he gave up the home run to Calhoun, there was no overall emotion. There was no giving up," Carlos Beltran said. "It was, 'OK, let's get back on the glove and let's get back to what we were doing.'"

Throughout the season, Girardi has lauded the strength of his three-headed monster in the bullpen. With the trio of Dellin Betances, Miller and Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees only ask for six quality innings out of their starters.

Video: LAA@NYY: Miller strikes out Marte to secure the win

To some extent, it has worked. Masahiro Tanaka, Nathan Eovaldi, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova have all proved fairly reliable. Pineda, though, had allowed at least five runs in five of his 11 starts.

Over 91 pitches on Tuesday night, Pineda worked to shed that reputation.

Gregorio Petit seemed to have the best read on Pineda all night, with two hits. But after striking out swinging on a 91-mph slider to end the seventh, he stepped away from Romine, refusing to accept the tag after the catcher dropped the third strike.

It didn't matter. The inning was officially over, and so was Pineda's stellar night.

Joshua Needelman is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Yankees, Michael Pineda