Sunday, May 15, 2005

A Pineiro for your thoughts?

Going into the season, the M's starting pitching certainly had its share of major question marks. Would Gil Meche take a step or two forward after an uneven previous two years of promise mostly unfulfilled? Could Jamie Moyer, at the Methuselah-esque age of 42, bounce back from arguably the worst season of his professional career? Was Ryan Franklin's 2003 season an aberration in an otherwise mediocre career? Could Aaron Sele use his veteran guile to fend off Father Time and post serviceable fifth starter numbers?

The only relatively sure thing, seemingly, was the powerful right arm of Joel Pineiro. Sure, he tanked with the rest of the team in 2004 and experienced arm troubles that shelved him in July for the remainder of the year. It wouldn't be correct to say that he was absolutely a lock to return to his form of 2002 and 2003 where he notched a combined 30-18 record with successive ERA's of 3.24 and 3.78, struck out about 6.5 batters per nine innings pitched (walking about 2.5 per nine innings) and held down opposing batting averages to right around .250. However, after nine months of rest and rehab and despite tightness in his shoulder during March and early April, there was no reason to believe that Joel couldn't resume his rise toward stardom. Just 26, Pineiro was a solid number two starter that was expected to develop into a staff ace over the next couple of years. If the baseball world wasn't his oyster, it was at least his Alaskan King Crab.

Pineiro displayed a more surly form of crabbiness yesterday after learning that he'd been sent down to Tacoma to work on his mechanics after yet another inauspicious start on Saturday. When asked to comment about the move, Pineiro pointed in the direction of Grover's office and said, "Go talk to them. I've got nothing to say."

Nothing is the operative word in that terse statement, as Joel has shown just that so far. His stat line borders on the horrific: 38 2/3 innings pitched, 48 hits (opponents' batting average: .306), 4.89 K/9, 1.62 K/BB and a 2-3 record. Hitters are slugging at an unbelievable .516 clip against him. Their OPS? A staggering .878.

As much or more than a 30/100 season from Beltre or Big Sexy, the Mariners need their erstwhile ace-to-be to return to form and display the stuff that he showed in his first few seasons with the club. Perhaps he is still recovering from his arm troubles, although the team was quick to state that his demotion was not due to health reasons but instead problems with his mechanics. I think we all agree that the Mariner boatload of young pitching arms, at one point heralded as one of baseball's best, has been listing badly in the past few years. We can ill afford to have a sure-thing like Pineiro go down with the ship as well.


At 7:57 AM, Blogger Tad said...

The M's minor league pitching is one badly listing boatload indeed.

Our only hope? Felix "Horatio, Lord Nelson" Hernandez turns into our own Chester Nimitz.

Tatonka blog. Home of the tortured naval hero analogy.


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