Once considered a "can't miss" pitching prospect in the Yankees organization, 27-year-old reliever Joba Chamberlain kept our "Eight Most Interesting Yankees Entering 2013" series going yesterday at number four.
After bursting onto the scene in 2007 with an impressive fastball and carefully progressing with the aide of "Joba Rules," which meant not appearing on consecutive days, Chamberlain has had peaks and valleys. While his stints between the starting rotation and the bullpen have been met with brilliant performances, there have been performances that have left a lot to be desired. Moreover, significant injuries have derailed any attempts to attaining consistency.
However, Chamberlain enters 2013 with a clean bill of health and a potential opportunity to fortify himself as a candidate to replace the legendary Mariano Rivera, in the event Rivera decides to call it career following this season.
As we delve into our number three most interesting Yankee entering 2013, we recall a trade consummated last year that sent, at the time, top-prospect Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners. As a murky, at best, catcher situation exists for the Yankees in 2013 with backstop Russell Martin now a Pittsburgh Pirate, we anticipate the potential arrival of a right-handed phenom whom the Yankees received in the aforementioned deal for Montero.
Michael Pineda, and his high potential, check in at number three.
During Pineda's rookie season for the Mariners in 2011, the native of the Dominican Republic opened the eyes of baseball enthusiasts everywhere, bringing along a mitt-popping high-90's fastball and a devastating slider. Moreover, with striking out 173 batters over 171 innings in 2011, Pineda implemented one of the best strikeout percentages in Major League Baseball. Needless to say, while also appearing in the All-Star Game and garnering votes for American League Rookie of the Year, Pineda became one of the true up-and-coming youngsters in the game.
Fast forward to January 13 of last year, and Pineda was now a Yankee via trade. While the anticipation of the second year right-hander was immense, a gradual regression during spring training became noticed. As his velocity dipped to an astonishing low-90's fastball, it was soon discovered Pineda had tendonitis in his right shoulder. The discovery would soon be countered with a trip to the 15-day disabled list, pushing back the possibility of Pineda being in the Bronx for the beginning of the season.
Following a return, with a few rehabilitation appearances, issues further amplified, as a significant tear was discovered in Pineda's aforementioned shoulder, which led to major surgery and a lost season for Pineda.
While these happenings have led to questioning whether the 2012 trade involving Montero will ever pan out, the good news recently reported regarding Pineda's progress towards full-mound throwing, perhaps as early as this week, has brightened the horizons.
What makes Pineda an interesting Yankee entering 2013? While his debut in the Bronx is not expected until at least mid-June, it's interesting to speculate where Pineda will fit in if he shows his 2011 form.
With the uncertainty at the number five slot in the starting rotation following a dismal 2012 for Ivan Nova and the inexperience of David Phelps, Pineda could potentially come back, show no signs of ineffectiveness following a meticulous rehabilitation, and easily fill the back-end of the rotation. Moreover, if the Yankees are in what could be a closely-contested playoff race, Pineda's mid-season addition would be a welcome addition to face highly-improved American League East lineups.
However, as nice as this all sounds, it's all highly speculative at this point. Watching Pineda the next few months will be of high interest, for both the organization and Yankees fans. Needless to say, with the abundance of talent we've witnessed previously from Pineda, the thought of his eventual debut in the Bronx makes Pineda a top storyline of 2013.
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