Prior to the 2019 season the Minnesota Twins took a chance on Michael Pineda. They paid him for the 2018 season with the intention of monitoring and directing his rehab. He rewarded them to the tune of a 4.01 ERA over 26 starts last year and was an anchor during a run to the Postseason. Once again in 2020, they’re taking the chance.
After signing another two-year deal, this one doubling the previous pact, the Twins will be without Big Mike’s services for the first couple of months. After being reinstated from suspension (for an unapproved diuretic) he’ll return as a back-end starter for Rocco Baldelli’s staff. It remains to be seen how he’ll have been prepared to hit the ground running, but the hope would be that he picks up where he left off.
The 4.01 ERA and 4.02 FIP are not all that noteworthy for the former Yankees starter, but it’s what he did down the stretch that jumps off the page. After owning a 5.34 ERA through his first 12 starts, he found a groove and turned a corner. Over his final 14 starts, from June 13 through September 6, Pineda posted a 2.96 ERA while allowing a .650 OPS against. He chalked up an 87/17 K/BB ratio and Minnesota went 10-4 in the contests he started.
There was no denying his loss was a crushing one, as he appeared as a possible answer to the question of who would start game one of the ALDS. Once he returns this year, it will be in a very similar scenario. He’ll slot in behind the established top three, and he’ll be looked at as an addition as opposed to the necessary stopper. Minnesota would certainly love to see better than the 5.00+ ERA over his first handful of starts, but the rule won’t be how he finished either.
Assuming that the Twins begin the year with Homer Bailey and Jhoulys Chacin at the back end of the group, they’ll be tasked with keeping the seats warm until someone is ready to step in. There’s no reason to believe they can’t outpitch their expectations but having someone like Pineda to fall back on is a major boost for the Twins.
Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have created an infrastructure that enhances development. We saw the emergence of unexpected arms like Devin Smeltzer and Randy Dobnak contribute a year ago. That can still take place in 2020, all while having proven veterans going out to do their thing. There’s no reason to believe starts will be spread across any less than 10 players, and top loading the second ground with the efforts Michael Pineda is coming off must be viewed as a major win.
Results are never guaranteed, and he’ll still need to go out and make it happen, but a second go-round with Pineda seemed like an ideal situation for everyone involved.