NY seeks answers to Pineda's perplexing slump

'He's going through a major bump in the road right now,' Rothschild says

May 18th, 2016
Michael Pineda fell to 1-5 with a 6.60 ERA after Tuesday's loss to the D-backs.

PHOENIX -- The emphatic gyrations that used to punctuate Michael Pineda's outings have been replaced by body language of a different kind, like the exasperated glance he shot at the Chase Field roof after watching Jake Lamb's homer travel toward the right-field swimming pool on Tuesday.

Pineda has never been concerned with masking his feelings, whether the performance is positive or negative, and this season has already seen too much of the latter. The right-hander was hammered for five runs and nine hits in a 5-3 loss to the D-backs on Tuesday, raising his ERA to 6.60.

"Would you be [angry]? Of course you would. He's [angry]," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He knows he's better than this. He's always been animated. When things are going well, he shakes a lot. He's animated; that's who he is."

Rather than monitoring his quivers, the Yankees are more concerned with how to fix a sour run that has seen Pineda go 0-5 with a 6.05 ERA in seven starts since his season debut on April 6. Though Girardi said they haven't entertained removing Pineda from the rotation, Pineda acknowledged that the thought crosses his mind.

"Of course I'm thinking. This is my job," Pineda said. "I want to be better all the time. About the rotation or whatever, I don't have control for the situation. So the only thing I have control of is, be better when I get on the mound and try to do the best."

The major issue seems to be that the quality of Pineda's pitches drop greatly when he works out of the stretch, compared to the windup. Rothschild said that he believes Pineda has a tendency to overthrow when he is ahead in the count, pointing to Nick Ahmed's two-out, two-strike RBI single on a hanging second-inning slider as a prime example.

"I think one of the problems is the stretch position, that the quality of pitches are not the same," Rothschild said. "We need to fix that as quick as we can. Tonight, two-out RBI on a two-strike breaking ball, he makes a pitch there and he's out of that inning. It's just runs that pile up. We need to end this right now and get this straightened out."

The crushing blow was Lamb's two-run homer in the fifth, but the D-backs enjoyed consistent contact against Pineda in the second and third innings, producing three runs. Given his nine-strikeout performance, that had the Yanks wondering why his swing-and-miss stuff seems to come and go.

"It just goes to show you when he makes a mistake, they're not missing it," Girardi said. "There were sliders that almost backed up, and they're not missing them. When he makes good pitches, he gets people out and he strikes people out."

Pineda tallied seven or more strikeouts for the fourth time in six starts, but his seven-game winless streak is the second-longest of his career.

"It's hard for me," Pineda said. "But I'm just keeping my head up, keep working hard and be better."

Rothschild said that he does not believe the peripheral numbers tell the complete truth about Pineda, though he said that the rise in hitter productivity late in the count has been bizarre.

"We're almost a quarter of the way through his starts, so we need that to straighten out, especially from the stretch position," Rothschild said. "He's got a chance to be a really good pitcher here and I still think he will be. He's going through a major bump in the road right now and we just need to get it straightened out."