Pineda threw six shutout innings last night against Salt Lake, allowing one hit and three walks while striking out five. He scraped the high 90s with his fastball, and some reports say that Salt Lake hitters looked as uncomfortable as any opponent the Rainiers have faced in a while.
In other words, it was an overall success for the developing phenom. Since I wasn't there to watch, I asked three questions of a couple people who were - Tacoma announcer Mike Curto, and social drinker Ryan Divish.
1) In your opinion, what was Pineda's most impressive moment?
Definitely striking out Peter Bourjos with runners at 2nd and 3rd to end the fifth inning. He got him with all sliders and changes – really the only time he strayed from the fastball in the game.
Most impressive moment for me was the fifth when he walked Conger, and then gave up the single to McAnulty. So there's runners on first and second with no outs and he comes back strikes out Terry Evans going fastball 95 for a called strike, fastball 96 - ball 1, fastball 94 (fouled off), fastball 95 (fouled off) and then freezing him with a nasty slider. He then throws four fastballs to Carlos Colmenares and saws him off for an easy grounder to first, but the runners move up. So with runners on second and third and two outs and Peter Bourjos - a decent player up - he goes slider (called strike), slider (made Bourjos look silly) and slider low and away that Bourjos waved at. He's 21 and he didn't even flinch in that situation.
Also he hit 96 in the sixth inning at about 95 pitches. And his fastball is moving a lot. Moore said it cuts and dives like Felix's fastball at times.
2) In your opinion, what was Pineda's biggest flaw?
Fastball command, missing up with it for a long stretch in the 4th and 5th innings.
Biggest flaw to me is that he is a little fastball heavy and he doesn't always throw inside. His command is so good he likes to just pound that outside corner with it. But he needs to be able to go inside on hitters. Advanced scouting gets better at each level. And teams will figure out what he's doing. He said he could tell in just one start how much better hitters are at making adjustments. His change and his slider have good movement, he needs to throw them more. And I'm sure he will as the season goes on. He's learning how to pitch, not just throw. It's a process that takes time. We saw it with Felix.
3) How would you summarize Pineda's AAA debut?
It was an excellent debut, he was poised and in command, it seemed – didn’t get rattled when his command wandered in the middle innings. Salt Lake was geared up for him, they started four lefties and two switch hitters on purpose, they were fired up to get him, they had a patient approach – and he still one-hit them for six innings.
I thought his Triple A debut was outstanding. There was the stretch where he walked three of four hitters and seemed to lose command of his fastball. Adam Moore and Pineda (from what I could understand) talked about his arm opening up too soon and that's why it was running away from left-hander hitters. Moore said he reminded Pineda to get on top more and Pineda said he made the adjustment, which is good to see, that he listens. After watching my fair share of Rainiers games with the likes of Chris Seddon, Andy Baldwin and the annoying Jake Woods back in the day, Pineda brings a buzz to the stadium and to the team.
You can find Divish's blog post here. Many thanks to both of them for helping me out.