New York Yankees: Did the real Michael Pineda just stand up?
Mar 4, 2017; Lakeland, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda (35) throws a pitch during the first inning of an MLB spring training baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Is the Michael Pineda we saw on Saturday afternoon the version of the pitcher the New York Yankees will get in 2017?

Last week, we touched on just how important Michael Pineda‘s 2017 season is for not only for him, but for the New York Yankees as well. During his first taste of spring training action, he certainly got off on the right foot.

Facing intimidating bats in an excellent Detroit Tigers’ lineup, Pineda worked two shutout innings, allowed just one hit and struck out the last five hitters that he faced (Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Alex Avila and Omar Infante).

Pineda, who became the only starting pitcher in major league baseball history to give up 25+ homers, maintain an ERA over 4.80, register a K/9 rate of 10+ and strike out 200 or more batters, was clearly nothing more than an enigma in 2016, as he led the American League with a 10.61 strikeout rate but also finished in the top ten in home run rate (1.38).

Determined to pitch to his strengths and finish counts, the 28-year-old’s game plan worked to a tee as he struck out four of the five batters he faced with his nasty slider.

“All the pitches were good and the slider amazing,” Gary Sanchez said. “The slider is better now than it was last year.”

Despite being 23-27 with a 4.10 ERA in 72 starts over his three-year Yankee career, Pineda’s cutter that is consistently thrown at a borderline-unfair velocity of 95 mph and a deadly slider that registered a .187 batting average against last season shrieks “front-end-starter.”

Never able to channel it and finish off his opposition, however, batters slashed .325/.383/.598 off Pineda with two outs in the inning last season including 13 home runs and 147 total bases in just 246 at-bats.

“Part of it for Michael is finishing innings and eliminating mistakes,” Girardi said. “If you’re a guy that’s prone to making mistakes that get hit out of the park, you’re going to lose games.”

Pineda also said he has worked on staying focus, which clearly worked during New York’s 11-1 win over the Tigers. He will earn $7.4 million this coming season and if he could turn what we saw at Publix Field into a matter of consistency, the Yankees would be a lot more confident in their rotation abilities and Big Mike will have a significant paycheck waiting for him at season’s end.