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Michael Pineda brings healthy dose of optimism

New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda gives a

New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda gives a thumbs up to pitching coach Larry Rothschild during a spring training workout in Tampa, Fla., on March 1, 2015. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Michael Pineda said he feels healthy, strong and ready to pitch.

That's good news for Yankees fans with Pineda making his first start of the season Wednesday night against Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey at Yankee Stadium. If Pineda can stay healthy, he can be a formidable force in the rotation. The problem is it is a big "if" when it comes to Pineda's health. Pineda hasn't stayed healthy for a full season in the majors since he was named an All-Star as a rookie with Seattle in 2011.

Pineda isn't about to predict that he will return to the All-Star Game but he is very optimistic heading into this season.

"Nobody knows what's going to happen," he said. "I'm going to be ready and I'm working hard. I'm feeling really good and I'm feeling great and I'm happy with that. I'm ready for Wednesday."

The Yankees are hoping he is as ready as he was in spring training.

Though spring training stats are never remembered by anyone once the season starts, it's hard not to be impressed with the way Pineda looked in Florida. Not only did he finish the spring with a 1.42 ERA, he struck out 23 batters and walked only one in 19 innings.

One reason he looked so sharp is that it was the first time in a long time that Pineda wasn't rehabbing from an injury. He wasn't dealing with the torn labrum that kept him out of the majors for 2012 and 2013. Nor was he feeling any ill effects from the strained back muscle that kept him out for three months last year. Pineda, who also missed 10 games last year after being suspended for pine-tar use, was 5-5 with a 1.89 ERA in 2014.

Joe Girardi knows exactly what a healthy Pineda can mean for his team.

"I think it's extremely important if you watched what he did for us last year and how effective he was," the manager said when asked if he was concerned about Pineda staying healthy. "We feel good about where he's at, the way he came into spring training, the way he's ready to compete, the way he threw the baseball. I think pitchers' injuries are probably the hardest ones to predict, and when they're going to happen. You just kind of keep your fingers crossed."

Pineda says he is excited to start the season, but he is approaching his start Wednesday night with a rather low-key, if not simple, philosophy.

"I'm going to go out there and pitch every inning and try to get outs and win the game," Pineda said. "I just want to continue to work hard and help my team."

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