TAMPA, Fla. — Michael Pineda went right back to being dominant.
The righthander, who struck out five in a perfect two-inning spring debut March 4 but wasn’t quite as good five days later when he allowed two runs and three hits in three innings, rebounded in a big way Wednesday night.
He pitched five perfect innings against the Phillies with eight strikeouts and zero walks, his slider as nasty as in his first outing, but with a fastball and changeup to match.
“All my pitches were working really well,” Pineda said.
Joe Girardi said the intent was for Pineda to throw four innings but was so efficient, the outing went one inning longer.
“Fastball command was really good, his slider was really good and he threw some good changeups,” Girardi said. “Originally we were thinking four innings but he threw so few pitches . . . he could go up to 60 and he still didn’t get there [53 pitches]. That’s as good as he could throw.”
Pineda, a free agent after the season, is looking to put a complete year together. In 2016 he went 6-12 with a 4.82 ERA, recording a career-best 207 strikeouts but allowing a career-worst 27 home runs.
“We really believe in Michael,” Girardi said. “I think this guy’s really big for us this year, he really is.”
Romine forced out
Austin Romine left the game in the seventh inning when a Chad Green pitch to Howie Kendrick bounced in front of the plate, skipped between the backup catcher’s legs and somehow hit his right hand that was resting on his outside thigh. X-rays taken after the game came back negative.
Kyle Higashioka, who has his share of backers in the organization and has had a solid spring, replaced Romine.
Kaprielian all set
James Kaprielian, one of the club’s top pitching prospects who has been brought along slowly after missing most of 2016 with a right flexor tendon strain, will make his spring debut Thursday against the Blue Jays in Dunedin.
“It’ll be fun,” Kaprielian, 23, said. “I’m glad I’ll be able to get on the road with some of these guys and go through that experience and do what I can to compete and hopefully do my job.”
The Yankees brought in RHP Ernesto Frieri in the afternoon for a physical with the intent of signing him to a minor league deal. Frieri, 31, most recently pitched for Columbia in the World Baseball Classic and last pitched in the big leagues in 2015 with Tampa. He saved 37 games for the Angels in 2013.
“This is a guy that saved a lot of games,” Girardi said. “I know he pitched well in the WBC, some of our people saw him and he’s going to get an opportunity here.”