Mariners' prized prospect Pineda lives up to hype
RYAN DIVISH; Staff writer
Michael Pineda didn’t disappoint.
The Mariners’ top pitching prospect made his Triple-A debut Wednesday night and left the 3,157 fans at Cheney Stadium, the Salt Lake Bees and his Tacoma Rainiers teammates impressed.
Pineda threw six shutout innings, allowing one hit while striking out five and walking three in the Rainiers’ 6-2 win over the Bees.
“It was my first time here, and I was trying to focus on the game, but I was excited, too,” Pineda said. “But after that first hitter, I felt good.”
He looked good. At 6-foot-5, 243 pounds, he cast an imposing figure on the mound, and he left to a loud ovation.
Pineda threw 90 pitches, 60 for strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of his 22 batters. His fastball ranged from 91 to 97 mph, his slider was around 82-84 mph and his change-up 88-90 mph.
“It was fun to watch,” Rainiers manager Daren Brown said. “I thought it was an outstanding first time out. I was happy with what I saw tonight. He’s got a chance to be a good one.”
No player on the field had a better view of Pineda than his catcher, Adam Moore.
Moore, who’s with Tacoma on a rehab assignment, saw several reminders of another Mariners pitching phenom – Felix Hernandez.
“Man,” Moore said. “He spots up everything. His fastball reminds a lot of (Hernandez). It’s either cutting or sinking and he’s able to place it where he wants it. He was very impressive tonight.”
Pineda was perfect through three innings before allowing a pair of walks in the fourth.
In the fifth inning, he allowed his first hit. After issuing a leadoff walk to Hank Conger, Pineda threw a slider to Paul McNulty, who blooped a single to right.
But with runners on first and second and no outs, Pineda showed his mental toughness. He struck out Terry Evans looking, got a weak grounder from Carlos Colmenares, then struck out Peter Bourgos with three sliders in a row.
“He was able to compose himself and get out there and compete,” Moore said. “It was nice to see him not freak out and bear down and get out of that jam.”
The only rough patch was during the fourth and fifth innings when he walked three out of four hitters.
“I made an adjustment,” he said.
Said Moore, “You can really see it coming out of his hand, his arm kind of opens up. I just reminded him to get on top of the ball. He was just leaving his arm open instead of closing it up.”
Pineda closed out his outing in the sixth with a 1-2-3 inning, though Mark Trumbo did hit a deep fly ball to center that Greg Halman caught.
“That was on the only ball hit hard,” Brown said.
Well, it was the only hard hit ball by the Bees off Pineda. The Rainiers hit several balls hard including Moore’s double off the wall in right-center in the third inning, Mike Wilson’s two-run homer in the fourth and Brad Nelson’s RBI double in the fifth. It provided more than enough offense.
The Rainiers and Bees will play a doubleheader today with two seven-inning games starting at 6 p.m. Left-hander Luke French (7-2, 2.21 ERA) gets the start in the first game for the Rainiers, while Salt Lake will go with left-hander Will Smith (2-4, 5.98 ERA).