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Michael Pineda working hard to put 2012 behind him

Michael Pineda delivers a pitch in the bullpen

Michael Pineda delivers a pitch in the bullpen during the first day of spring training at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. (Feb. 12, 2013) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Michael Pineda would just as soon leave 2012, as he put it, "in the past."

When it comes to Pineda, the Yankees would be more than happy to do the same.

Pineda -- the centerpiece of a trade in which the Yankees sent top prospect Jesus Montero to the Mariners -- showed up overweight at his first spring training with the Yankees and soon went down with a sore right shoulder, which turned out to be a torn labrum.

The deal, general manager Brian Cashman said in late April after season-ending surgery was announced, could fairly be characterized as a big decision "gone wrong." And that was before Pineda was arrested Aug. 20 and charged with DUI.

Needless to say, 2012 couldn't end quickly enough for all involved.

Pineda, overwhelmed at times in spring training last year with the attention that comes with being a young, hyped pitcher in New York, seems more comfortable this year.

Of course, the pressure, to a degree, is off. He's continuing his rehab from surgery, and the timetable for when he could help the rotation hasn't changed since last year.

"I always thought about June when you could start optimistically thinking about," Cashman said Thursday, adding that setbacks are always a possibility for any rehabbing pitcher. "Listen, doesn't mean he'll be in the big leagues, but if he completes his rehab fully successfully and knocks the rust off, that's probably a more realistic safe area."

Pineda, 24, who threw the first full-mound bullpen session of his rehab Wednesday and will throw another one Friday, has no doubts about pitching this season, nor about how successful he will be. "I'll be ready for this year," he said Thursday.

Pineda said he has no doubt he'll be "100 percent" the same pitcher he was two years ago. And not the pitcher he was in his final 11 starts in 2011, when he went 1-5 with a 5.71 ERA. He meant his first 17 starts, when -- with a mid-90s fastball and nasty slider -- he was 8-5 with a 2.58 ERA and, one scout said, sometimes looked like "the best pitcher in baseball."

The 6-7 Pineda raised red flags within the organization last year when he showed up heavy at camp, and he said Thursday that was a mistake. He weighed in at 260 this year, 20 pounds less than last season.

"It tells me he understands it's important to keep that weight off," Joe Girardi said.

Girardi said he does not believe Pineda's weight contributed to the injury.

"I think he'll get back ," he said. "I think he's got youth on his side and he doesn't have a ton of innings [171] in that arm."

Girardi said a possible return by Pineda in June could be "a really nice boost for us."

"We saw what he was capable of doing and we really liked it," Girardi said. "If he can get back to that form . . . we've talked about it ad nauseam; you can never have too many starters. Never."

Girardi called Pineda's DUI arrest -- the case still is unresolved -- "unfortunate" and "a lapse in judgment."

"As human beings, we have to stay away from those because there's consequences and you have to deal with them," Girardi said.

Girardi said the incident didn't, in his eyes, reflect a lack of dedication. "I've had lapses in judgment,'' he said, "and I don't think it's taken away from my dedication to my job."

For Cashman, the trade has been a nightmare to this point. The only thing that can fix that still is at least four months away.

"We just have to wait, and I have to be honest -- it's a question mark," he said. "I just don't know. I'm hoping -- because he's an important piece -- that if he's back and healthy and performing up to his ceiling, that's a huge thing for us. But right now, I can't represent any of those things. I just appreciate he's working his tail off and doing everything necessary to give it a chance."

With David Lennon

New York Sports