With Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi looking good in Mariners camp, and Michael Pineda reporting to the Yankees overweight, it would be easy to declare Seattle the winner of the Montero-Pineda trade. But this is a deal that will take years to properly evaluate.
Jesus Montero hit with authority in spring training and showed the Mariners enough prowess behind the plate to believe he can catch in the big leagues. Hector Noesi locked down a spot in the rotation, while across the country, Michael Pineda showed up in Yankees camp with 20 pounds of added weight and about 8 mph of missing velocity on his fastball.
So mark down a big “W” for Jack Zduriencik on this blockbuster deal, right?
Uh, wrong. While the (very) early indications appear to favor the Mariners, this is a trade that could take years to sort itself out. Certainly, longer than one month, and I have a strong feeling that the designation of which team “won” the deal is going to be a pendulum, swinging back and forth.
For starters, the Pineda angst coming out of Tampa seems a little out of proportion — a shocking development for the Yankees. Yes, Pineda came to camp overweight, but he wasn’t exactly svelte when he left Seattle, and he has already lost 12 pounds. I remember Felix Hernandez reporting to Mariners camp overweight early in his career, and while it likely affected his performance that year, it also galvanized Hernandez to take conditioning seriously, an epiphany that turned him into a true ace. The Pineda I got to know last year is a conscientious, well-meaning young (very young) man who I suspect won’t make this mistake again.
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As for his waning velocity, suddenly the hottest topic in Yankees camp, Pineda has been slowly cranking it back up, and reached 94 mph in his latest start. This IS spring training, after all, and the Yankees don’t open the season for nearly two more weeks. A little too soon to write off Pineda as a bust.
That said, there is a real chance he might start the season in the minors. Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia are vying for three rotation spots behind CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda — with Andy Pettitte soon to be in the mix. Hughes is having a strong spring, and Nova went 16-4 last year, so it could be down to Pineda or Garcia — and Pineda still has minor-league options left. The New York media have been buzzing with speculation that Pineda, an All-Star last year, might not break camp with the Yankees.
Meanwhile, Montero will be playing every day, mostly as the Mariners’ designated hitter but occasionally behind the plate. Noesi will be starting every fifth day. So the early returns could certainly favor the M’s. But I’m not ready to dismiss Pineda quite yet — and we haven’t even mentioned Jose Campos, the 19-year-old right-hander who was the other player acquired by the Yankees.
It might be four or five years before Campos is ready to crack a major-league rotation. By that time, we should have a good idea if Montero is the right-handed power threat the Mariners so desperately need, if Noesi developed into a quality starter, and if Pineda lived up to the vast promise of his rookie season.
In other words, by 2016, we should start to get a feel for who won the Pineda/Montero trade.
Notes and quotes
• New Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine sure seems to be working hard to intensify the Yankees-Bosox rivalry. He had some cutting words for the Yankees after they opted not to go to extra innings after a 4-4 tie through nine in Thursday’s exhibition game between the teams.
Valentine was irked because he had rookie right-hander Clayton Mortensen warming up to pitch the 10th.
“It was regretful that Mortensen warmed up, and then we were told that they weren’t going to play extra innings. I didn’t think that that was very courteous,” Valentine told reporters.
• Speaking of feuds, there suddenly seems to be one developing between former Rangers teammates C.J. Wilson and Mike Napoli.
Wilson, now with the Angels, decided to post Napoli’s cellphone number on his Twitter feed. Apparently, he was annoyed by a Napoli quote about facing Wilson. Eventually, Wilson pulled back the phone number and tweeted:
“Okay I think we’ve all had a good time, I’m even with mike for saying he can’t wait to hit homers off me.”
Napoli, forced to change his phone number, was not amused.
“I think it was unnecessary,” Napoli told The Dallas Morning News. “I don’t know where that even came from. He said he did it because I said I wanted to hit a homer off him? If there is some problem with us, I would have thought he’d have said something to me or call me first. I haven’t spoken to him since the end of last season.
“Sometimes, you just don’t know what goes through C.J.’s mind.”
• Fantasy owners might be wise to tuck away the name Jeanmar Gomez, a right-handed pitcher for Cleveland. Gomez went 5-0 with a 1.80 earned-run average in a five-start stretch from late August to late September. Now he’s close to locking down the No. 5 spot in the Indians’ rotation with 11 scoreless innings in four spring appearances, holding opponents to a .114 average.
• Poor Corey Hart. Already recovering from knee surgery earlier in camp, the Milwaukee outfielder needed eight stitches on his head Tuesday when an overhead metal bar snapped back and whacked him while he was working out on a weight machine.
Last spring, Hart strained his oblique and started the year on the disabled list.
“We need to put him in a bubble during spring training,” Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan told The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org