Huh? Putting the prized off-season acquisition in the minor leagues? Can’t be!

However, this is the only move that the Yankees can (and should) make. It’s been well documented that the Yankees will open the season with six able starting pitchers and five rotation slots. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, and Phil Hughes are mortal locks for the rotation which leaves Michael Pineda and Freddy Garcia vying for the final spot. Garcia was extremely impressive last season, going from a Spring Training invite to rotation stalwart. Garcia essentially saved his career, posting a 12-8 record while sporting a 3.62 ERA.  Coming back to the Yankees on a one-year, $4 million deal made perfect sense. Then came the trade that shook the Yankee Universe..

Pineda, who was an All-Star last season, came to the Bronx in exchange for uber-prospect, Jesus Montero. I don’t need to get into the nitty gritty of his stats, but Pineda was lights out in the first half and struggled during the second half. In turn, Pineda, just 23-years-old, showed up to Yankee camp 15-pounds overweight. Add in the fact that Pineda’s fastball was barely breaking 92 MPH in February raised eyebrows and red flags all around Yankee camp. In his defense, Pineda has lost ten pounds or so during camp and struck out 16 hitters in 16 innings, tops among Yankee rotation hopefuls. His fastball is sitting around 93-94 MPH, but it’s not the 95.6 MPH he was averaging last season.

Let’s not forget, Pineda had to work extremely hard last year to break into Seattle’s rotation. Pineda’s hard work paid off as he made 28 Big League starts. While half of those starts were good, Cashman has been adamant that he still needs to work on his change-up. Remember, when Phil Hughes first broke onto the scene, the Yankees had him back-and-forth between the Majors, Minors, bullpen, and rotation. And Hughes was considered a better prospect than Pineda is. A ‘demotion’ to the Minors just made Hughes into a better pitcher, allowing him to work on his arsenal of pitches outside of the microscope of New York. There’s no harm at all doing the same thing for Pineda. Plus, putting him in the Minors will teach him that coming to camp out of shape is not the Yankee Way.

While critics will blast the Yankees for trading Montero for Pineda, remember that Pineda has five years (!!!) of team control left. The Yankees financial investment in Pineda is minimal and there’s certainly no rush to bring him along. Plus, the Yankees may want to showcase Garcia for the first month or so in hopes of trading him to a team in need.

Finally, I will leave you with this stat. During the regular season, 39 percent of pitchers who throw 120 innings or more will end up on the DL at least one time during the year. Fangraphs did a study on this and their showed that pitchers who rely heavily on sliders and curveballs (i.e. more than 22 percent of the time) face additional risks. Kuroda, Pineda, and Nova met this criteria last season. While this statistic is not meant to scare Yankee fans, it demonstrates that teams will need at least six or seven starting pitchers during the regular season. Having a lot of starting pitching is never a bad thing. Just ask the 2010 Boston Red Sox, who were deemed to have ‘too much pitching’.

Yes, Andy Pettitte should be ready to go by June at the latest and Yankee fans will end up clamoring for Pineda. Just remember, injuries happen and teams must adapt during the season. Don’t get too upset over Pineda starting the season in Triple A. Unlike other sports, baseball is a marathon, not a sprint to the finish. And putting Pineda in Triple A to work on his stuff may be the best investment the Bombers can make for years to come.