TAMPA, Fla. — CC Sabathia has experience in such matters.
And so when the veteran lefthander, having won a Cy Young award in 2007 with Cleveland, used that award and the eternally inconsistent Michael Pineda in the same sentence Tuesday, it raised a few eyebrows.
“I always come into spring training saying this is the year he’s going to win the Cy Young, he’s just got so much talent,” Sabathia said. “He just needs to put everything together. He wants to be good, he works really hard. He just wants to be that great pitcher. I think it’ll come together for him, hopefully this year.”
The timing for that would be ideal for the 28-year-old, who can become a free agent after this season.
It, of course, hasn’t happened yet.
Pineda did log a career-best 175 2⁄3 innings last season and made a career-high 32 starts. But the righthander was wildly inconsistent, going 6-12 with a 4.82 ERA. He recorded a career-best 207 strikeouts but also allowed a career-worst 27 home runs.
“I understand but I don’t think about [it]. I don’t put that pressure in my head,” Pineda said on Wednesday of what a standout season could mean to him financially. “The only pressure I put is I want to give my team an opportunity to win every five days. When the season’s over and you look at your numbers you feel good, you’re proud of yourself.”
Pineda said he worked, at the behest of pitching coach Larry Rothschild, on two things primarily this offseason: continue to develop a changeup, so he has a quality third pitch to go along with his fastball and slider, and “better focus.”
The latter, he believes, was the main culprit in the homers (nine of them came after he was ahead 0-and-1 in the count). Odder still, 13 of those homers came with two outs, when opponents produced a .325/.383/.598 slash line against Pineda.
“I need to finish,” said Pineda, who watched each of his 32 starts on video during the offseason. “Especially after two outs because last year I had a lot of runs after two outs. For me, this year, [that’s] my focus. When I get to two outs, two strikes, whatever, I need to finish.”
He added later: “Making my best pitch at that point, this is my focus. Try to make my best pitch and get an out.”
As for Sabathia’s comments, the 6-7, 260-pound Pineda broke into a wide smile when they were relayed to him.
“Yeah, I have the abilities,” Pineda said. “I’m laughing because he’s a great pitcher, he’s a Cy Young pitcher, so when you hear a pitcher like him say something like that, you feel good.”