Pineda's MRI reveals tendinitis

Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda watches from the

Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda watches from the dugout during a game against the Washington Nationals. (March 15, 2012) (Credit: AP)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Brian Cashman's years in the game had him fearing the worst Friday night when head hit pillow.

So when an MRI performed Saturday morning showed that Michael Pineda has right shoulder tendinitis, Cashman exhaled.

"Labrum, rotator cuff, you think of those things," Cashman said by phone from Tampa Saturday afternoon. "Those things are killers. Or can be killers . . . This news was welcome relief."

Pineda will be put on the 15-day disabled list, and Cashman said "we'll probably keep a ball out of his hands 10, 15 days."

"It's great news for what your biggest concerns were," Joe Girardi said. "Very relieved because the rest of the MRI came out good. You always worry about rotators and labrums and everything, but the rest of the shoulder looked good. He just had a little tendinitis."

Pineda, whose drop in velocity has been a story throughout spring training, lasted only 22/3 innings Friday night against the Phillies, allowing six runs and seven hits. He later said "my arm is a little sore," then pointed to the back of his right shoulder when asked to pinpoint where.

The injury for the most part sets the Yankees' five-man rotation, at least to begin the season. Girardi already had announced that CC Sabathia will start Friday's season opener and Hiroki Kuroda will be the No. 2 starter.

Girardi said Saturday that Phil Hughes is likely to pitch the season's third game, followed by Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia. The six-starters-for-five spots narrative of spring training is over.

"As I've said, you can never have too many [starters], that's the bottom line," Girardi said. "Sometimes you wonder how things are going to work out. It's unfortunate we have a player going on the DL, but we'll iron these things out as we go on."

There still are unanswered questions regarding Pineda's tendinitis. When did the 6-7 righthander start feeling something in his shoulder? Girardi and Cashman said Friday that the first they heard of it was after Pineda came out of that night's game.

Girardi said he has told players "numerous times in spring training" to say something if they feel something, but the message, especially for those competing for spots, doesn't always take hold.

"That's the competitiveness and desire for people to be in the big leagues," Girardi said. "Your dreams as a kid . . . Kids don't dream about playing in Triple-A."

Girardi said "it's possible" that the tendinitis -- if Pineda had it throughout spring training -- caused the diminished velocity, but at this point, it's guesswork.

Pineda's arm also could have felt the effects of a big innings jump -- 1391/3 in 2010 in the minors to 171.0 last season.

There were similar theories floated last year regarding Phil Hughes, who had his own velocity issues after an innings jump from 86.0 in 2009 to 1761/3 in 2010.

And there's always weight. Hughes entered last spring training heavy and was diagnosed in April with inflammation in his right shoulder. That's back-to-back similar diagnoses for pitchers who reported with extra weight.

"We can speculate," Girardi said. "Was it the innings jump? Was he just not ready to turn it loose or was it the tendinitis? It's really hard to say. Could it be a combination of all three? Sure. It could be a lot of different things. Sometimes it's hard to say exactly what it is."

Pineda, by all accounts, was in much better spirits Saturday than he was Friday night, when he appeared close to tears while talking to the media.

"I'm feeling a little better," Pineda told reporters in Tampa after the MRI. "A little sore. I'm a little sad. I'll be OK."

And he was resolute about his future.

"I'm pitching this year," Pineda said. "I'm coming back strong."

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