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Pineiro vs. Pi?eiro

I have to admit, I didn't see a whole lot of last night's game. Sure, I tried to flip back and forth between commercials and John Madden commentary (much to the chagrin of my buddies), but I was enthralled with the NFL's new reality television program; the Philadelphia Eagles.

Its one part "Days of Our Lives," two parts "Real World," a dash of "Saved by the Bell" and a pinch of "Lindsey Lohan vs. Hillary Duff." At any point, one might expect TO to throw a glass of gatorade into McNabb's face after he realizes that McNabb is having a baby with another woman. Or that McNabb might throw TO's teddy bear into the stands and chase TO into the tunnel and slap him in the face for disrespecting him.

It's sad, but it's like a car wreck and the UFC. You can't help but gawk and you know that eventually someone is going to get the piss knocked out of them.

Despite the draw and intrigue of the greatest soap on turf, there are more important matters at hand. Someone or something has taken over the body of Joel Pineiro. Now before we place a phone call to Father Karras and Father Merrin, let us examine if we truly want whatever it is that has taken over the body of the once enigmatic Pineiro to disappear.

We know a couple of things. Since Felix Hernandez took the mound on the Fourth of August, (a day that shall be marked on Mariner fans calendars for at least the next 20 years), Joel has not pitched like Joel Pineiro. Rather, he has pitched liked Joel Piñeiro. Piñeiro has changed his delivery. He has pounded the strike zone, decreasing his walk totals and raising his strikeout rates. He has seen an increase in the number of fly balls hit, yet a decrease in the number of homeruns. The timid and shaky early season version of Pineiro seems to be fading and the confident and focused Piñeiro seems to be returning. He got rid of that god awful dye job. And he isn't the young gun in the rotation anymore.

It's pretty obvious that since the arrival of The King, Piñeiro has been a different pitcher. It might be as simple as friendly competition, something that has lacked between the younger pitchers this season. Instead of playing the role of court jester in Felix's kingdom, perhaps Piñeiro is rising to the occasion and is ready to turn the corner and take his spot as one of The King's knights.

While his recent performance has left many (including myself) skeptical of the sustainability of (let alone ability to improve upon) this recent stretch, the bottom line is that Piñeiro has pitched better as of late**. Maybe he has finally gotten his health back. Maybe his arm slot really did make a world of difference. Maybe his drop in walks and rise in strikeouts will continue to climb to his early career levels. Maybe he will be able to sustain his increased velocity. Maybe he will be able to sustain this type of performance into next year. Maybe these past two months have helped to increase his perceived value as the team heads into the off-season and looks into possibly unloading his $6.30 million for next year.

But then again, maybe he truly has been possessed by some supernatural phenomena that has enabled him throw strikes and keep opposing hitters off balanced. Even if this is the case, I'm not willing to drop a dime to Karras or Merrin. Are you?

**Key note - "better as of late" should in no way, shape or form be interpreted as "Joel is back!"