Though the common return date has been pinned to the month of July, New York Yankees starter Michael Pineda is focused on returning to the field as quickly as possible, which could be as early as June, according to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
"We have to get in a position where he's 100 percent healthy, and then it will be performance driven," Cashman said. "He's working hard, he's been in great shape for a long time now, so he's doing everything necessary. There's still time and things he has to complete for us to start hoping we can actually see the benefits of that trade."
The trade Cashman is referring to is the blockbuster move that landed Pineda in the Bronx in exchange for former top prospect Jesus Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi, who were both sent to the Seattle Mariners. While Cashman remains optimisitic about an early return, he also acknowledged that setbacks are very possible as Pineda recovers from a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
After missing the entire season in 2012, many critics bashed the Yankees for giving up their young star Montero in a trade that netted them a pitcher with shoulder problems. However, Pineda is anxious to get back on the mound and prove he can return to his All-Star form from 2011.
"I really wanted to pitch. Last year was a bad year for me," Pineda said. "I learned from the whole situation last year and everything is in the past. I'm very excited for this year, my shoulder is doing well, and I'm ready to pitch this year."
Pineda, 24, was 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA in 2011, his rookie season with the Mariners. However, he was 8-6 with a 3.03 ERA in the first half of the season, then followed up his All-Star appearance by going 1-4 with a 5.12 ERA in the second half of the season.
Despite the ups and downs of his young career, on and off the field, such as getting arrested for driving under the influence in August or coming to camp overweight last spring, Yankees manager Joe Girardi has liked what he's seen as of late with Pineda.
"I think he's gotten after it pretty good since his injury," said Girardi. "I think he's done a really good job of rehabbing and staying consistent in his work and working to get back to what he loves to do. That's a good thing. It just shows you that he's hungry."
Expected to start the season in New York's rotation are C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes, with Ivan Nova and David Phelps likely battling for the final spot in the rotation.
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