Michael Pineda is already on the sidelines due to a 10-game suspension for using pine tar during a start last week against the Boston Red Sox, but now it would seem the 25-year-old may be in danger of missing additional time. After throwing a bullpen session with the team on Sunday, the Yankees had Pineda head down to their extended spring training complex in Tampa in order to pitch in a simulated game on Tuesday, likely an effort to keep him throwing and in shape for his return to the rotation. However, as the New York Post’s Joel Sherman reports, Pineda only made it through one inning of work before being pulled from the simulated outing with a lat strain. He is expected to undergo an MRI exam to evaluate the extent of the injury.
Pineda's next start for New York had initially been planned for May 5, but it now appears as though that outing could be in jeopardy with this latest development. Joe Girardi has already confirmed to reporters that David Phelps will likely remain in the starting rotation should Pineda be unable to take the mound.
Having missed his entire first two seasons with the Yankees due to shoulder surgery, Pineda had gotten off to a torrid start to the 2014 season. Through his first four starts, he’d thrown a total of 19 2/3 innings, allowing just four earned runs and three walks while striking out fifteen. However, his last start ended early after he was ejected for having pine tar on his neck, an offense that earned him a suspension. Lat strains such as the one Pineda appears to have can be fickle injuries. Andy Pettitte coped with one during his final season with the Yankees, forcing him to miss just one start. Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto, however, suffered a similar injury last season that forced him to miss nearly three full months. Should Pineda be forced to miss additional time, it remains unclear how the Yankees will proceed with their starting rotation. The organization has already lost Ivan Nova for the remainder of the season to Tommy John surgery, forcing Vidal Nuno into the fifth starter's role. Phelps is a serviceable option in the short term, but he is likely not a candidate to remain in the rotation for an extended period of time, and there are no true alternative options within the team’s upper minor leagues who might be ready to take on such a role.