There was some discussion in March that the Yankees might hold off on putting Michael Pineda in the major league rotation immediately. By optioning the right handed pitcher down for the first month, they’d prevent him from adding up the necessary service time to earn Super Two status. The idea was absurd at that point, the Yankees would gladly give a player another year of arbitration eligibility instead of preventing the numerous issues that could arise.
The organization never had to make that decision though, because Pineda hit the disable list in Spring Training and hasn’t returned since. While he racked up a year of service time on the DL this season, the team lost out on a year of control at league minimum salary. When it comes to 2013, Pineda and the Yankees are in a different situation, and it makes more sense that they’d option him down. In fact, a new timetable for his recovery, which was announced yesterday, may hint at this very possibility.
Pineda had surgery to repair a discrete anterior labral tear back on May 1st, and the recovery time was estimated as exactly a year from May 1st. Before yesterday, the last thing we we heard about his progress came in mid-June, which indicated that he was on pace with his original recovery time table, and would begin a throwing plan around mid-September. In Cashman’s comments yesterday, he indicated that Pineda started that throwing plan three weeks ago, which is very close to what was indicated back in June.
Now comes the interesting part, in those same comments, Brian Cashman said this on Pineda’s recovery timetable,
“I think the surgery was the first week of June, so you’re talking June of next year. So as of right now no one should be looking at him until the second half of next year from my perspective, just from a safe bet. Whether that means he’s pitching for us in the major leagues, or he has to go on option to the minor leagues after he’s healthy, who the heck knows. But you knows he’s not someone that we’re gonna put in our game plan until he’s got a chance to fully recover. And then once he does that, he can then recompete for a spot, and hopefully he can provide us with everything we hoped for when we acquired him. But that’s obviously something we can’t consider right now until we get him healthy.”
The Yankee GM states that he’s expected to return next June, but also begins his comments by saying that he mistakenly believes he had the surgery in the first week of June. Unless Pineda had a second surgery we don’t know about, Cashman is still indicating that the recovery time is a year, however is incorrect from when the timetable began. Seeing as the throwing program is right on time with what we were expecting, I think Cashman’s remarks on a June to June recovery time were simply misspoken.
The bigger aspect to take out of his radio appearance, was when he said that optioning him to the minors would be in consideration. Optioning him down to Triple-A following a rehab stint would allow the team to remain conservative in his recovery, but why waste one of his options when you can keep him on a rehabilitation assignment after spring training? Because using an option allows the team to be ultra conservative with his timetable, and it also allows them to keep him in Triple-A until he’s no longer eligible for Super Two status.
Optioning him for the 2012 season, even before his injury, would have created a very unhappy MLB Players Association, as well as an unhappy Pineda. It seems that Cashman is already publicly hinting at using his option for recovery, in an effort to soften the impact when they do so next season. If there’s a miracle in his recovery, and he’s pitching well in Spring Training, I doubt the Yankees will chose this path, but it seems that the organization is already padding their way towards limiting his service time in 2013.
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