Pineda's parents raised him in in a relatively humble upbringing in the town of Yaguate in the Dominican Republic. Pineda saw his father, Juan Francisco Pineda, work long hours as a welder. And listened to his mother, Desi Maria Paulino, preach to him about hard work, specifically education.
"My Mom always says, 'When one wants something, you have to work hard to obtain it,' " Pineda said. "And that's the way I raised."
Paulino was more concerned about that approach for education than baseball. At first, she would not allow her son to simply give up on school to chase the dream of the big leagues, no matter how much money he could make.
"She was very adamant about Michael still attending school," said Mariners scout Patrick Guerrero, who signed Pineda. (Ryan Divish-Baseball America-10/26/10)
In 2008, Pineda was named the Mariners Minor League Pitcher of the Year, after he ranked second in the Midwest League in ERA (1.95) and opponent average (.216). He capped off his season with a 14-strikeout one-hitter. Then in 2010, Michael was again named the Mariners' Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
During the winter before 2009 spring training, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Michael as the 10th-best prospect in the Mariners' organization. And in the spring of 2010, they had moved him up to #6 in the Seattle farm system. And in the winter before 2011 spring training, they had Pineda as the second best prospect in the Mariner farm system, behind only Dustin Ackley.
During 2011 spring training, Pineda posted a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings for the Mariners.
Michael is a driven, hard-working sort who often can be seen running on the field or up stadium stairs in the early afternoons—before many of his teammates arrive at the park.
August 20, 2012: Tampa police charged Pineda, who was on the D.L. and in rehab, with driving under the influence at 2:35 in the morning. Pineda's blood alcohol rate was calculated as high as .128, which is above Florida's 0.8 legal limit.
According to the police report, "no headlights were illuminated at night." The report also stated that the officer could smell "a distinct odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his breath, his eyes were bloodshot, watery and glassy, and his speech was slurred."
On February 19, 2013, Michael entered a plea, and the judge ordered that he serve 50 hours of community service and up to one year of probation, attend DUI school and pay a $500 fine.
At least no one can accuse Michael of attempting to hide anything. He couldn't have been more obvious if he'd gone to the mound with a sandwich board announcing, "Check me for pine tar." The Red Sox had looked the other way two weeks ago when Pineda pitched a game against them at Yankee Stadium with a large, noticeable swatch of pine tar on his hand for an inning.
Red Sox players said they understood he wasn't trying to cheat. That is, it wasn't like he was scuffing the ball or loading it up with Vaseline. Rather than trying to do something to cause increased movement on the baseball, Pineda almost certainly was using pine tar to allow him to get a better grip on the ball on a blustery night.
Some of the Red Sox saw it as a safety issue. When a guy is throwing a 95-mph fastball, they would rather he's able to grip, and thus control, the baseball. That he would put pine tar in an even more visible place on April 23, 2014, that he would do it against the same team that looked the other way two weeks ago, was as baffling as him actually doing it.
Strip everything away, and this simply is a scared kid, a kid still recovering from shoulder surgery, a kid who just didn't think things through. Pineda was warned not to do it again, but who knows if he really understood? He speaks only limited English, and when confronted by a battery of reporters, he had a deer-in-the-headlights look. Pineda spoke quietly and briefly, saying he couldn't grip the ball and that he'd apologized to the Yankees.
The Red Sox had banged him around for two runs in the bottom of the first inning, and Pineda apparently disappeared into the clubhouse between innings. When he returned he had the pine tar on his neck. Red Sox manager John Farrell, seeing a violation so obvious as well as a chance to chew up the Yankees bullpen, asked that Pineda be checked.
It took home-plate umpire Gerry Davis about 20 seconds to find the pine tar and eject Pineda. Now the Yankees are in scramble mode regarding their pitching. And there are the larger issues. Girardi said it was "a mistake in judgment" and that Pineda now fully understood and would learn from it. Yankees GM Brian Cashman used the word "embarrassed" more than once in speaking to reporters. MLB suspended Pineda for 10 games. (Justice - mlb.com - 4/23/14)
2014: Pineda was reinstated from his 10-day suspension, but then went on the D.L. with a strained back muscle.
Michael has a bit of a reputation for talking to himself when he's on the mound. So when Pineda found himself in a bases-loaded jam with a one-run lead and one out in the fourth inning of the Yankees' 5-0 win over the Orioles, it should come as no surprise that he resorted to his old habit. But unlike in the past, when he's yelled at himself or thrown verbal jabs to challenge himself, Pineda took a soothing approach.
"Just let it go," Pineda said he told himself. "Just let it go. Keep fighting on the mound." He struck out the next two batters. Those pitches were indeed crucial—and when Pineda needed to go to a pitch to get out of a jam, he almost always went to his slider.
Pineda joked about his slider after the game, simply responding, "It was pretty good." But to catcher Brian McCann—and the Orioles' lineup—that slider was no laughing matter.
McCann described the pitch as sharper than usual, and with that sharpness Pineda was able to throw it for strikes at a much more consistent rate. And when Pineda can locate both his fastball and his slider, the punch-outs pile up. Nowhere was this more evident than that fourth inning. On both of the bases-loaded strikeouts, as well as the strikeout of Pedro Alvarez two batters earlier with runners on first and second, Pineda pounded the zone with sliders, throwing the pitch 10 out of 14 times, including all three of the strikeouts. Of Pineda's eight strikeouts, six of them came courtesy of the breaking ball.
That fact wasn't lost on Pineda.
"It's really good energy for everybody, especially the starting pitchers," Pineda said. "We try to take the day and pitch a good game and stay in the game longer to give the opportunity for the three big men we have in the bullpen. This is good." (Suss - MLB.com - 7/20/16)
Sept. 7, 2019: Pineda was suspended for 60 games for taking a diuretic, a big blow to the rotation of a first-place team heading toward the postseason. Major League Baseball said Pineda tested positive for the banned substance and the suspension takes effect immediately. The suspension will go into effect immediately and rules Pineda out for the remainder of the regular season and for the playoffs.
“We were disappointed to learn of the suspension of Michael Pineda for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program," said the Twins in a statement. "We fully support Major League Baseball's policy and its efforts to eliminate banned substances from our game. Per the protocol outlined in the Joint Drug Program, the Minnesota Twins will not comment further on this matter.”
"It’s definitely challenging to lose him," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Michael Pineda is a big member of this team in a lot of different ways, beyond the field as well as on it. Because of that, it does create a challenge. Our team has been pretty resilient with everything that’s been thrown at it to this point, and I think we’re going to have the ability to acknowledge this and process what’s going on and still continue to go out there and do our jobs."
In a statement released through the Major League Baseball Players Association, Pineda issued an apology to Twins fans, his family, his teammates and to the organization.
"I mistakenly took a medication that was given to me by a close acquaintance, who obtained it over the counter and assured me it would safely help me manage my weight," Pineda's statement read. "I ingested a few of these pills without the consent of the Twins' training staff."
According to a report by MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal, an arbitrator heard Pineda's appeal and reduced the penalty to 60 games from the usual standard of 80 games for a first offense.
Section 8.B.4 of the Joint Drug Agreement between MLB and the MLBPA stipulates that an arbitration panel can reduce a suspension "if a player proves by clear and convincing evidence that he bears no significant fault or negligence for the presence of the of the Performance Enhancing Substance in his test result."
"This was shocking for me to hear," Pineda's statement continued. "I never intended to cheat the system, other players or opposing teams. While I am pleased that the arbitrator found there was clear and convincing evidence to reduce my discipline, I realize that I am ultimately responsible for what goes in my body and therefore respect the 60-game suspension that remains." (DH Park - MLB.com - Sept 7, 2019) (Editor's note: Very bad timing. The Twins are in first place, three weeks away from the playoffs, and they recently lost SP Kyle Gibson to injury for the rest of the season.)
2005: The Mariners signed Pineda as a free agent, out of the Dominican Republican.
January 13, 2012: The Yankees sent C Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi to the Mariners, acquiring Pineda and RHP Jose Campos.
January 15, 2016: The Yankees and Pineda avoided arbitration, signing a one-year deal for $4.3 million.
Jan 13, 2017: Pineda and the Yanks avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $7.4 million.
Nov 2, 2017: Pineda elected free agency.
December 13, 2017: Michael signed a two-year contract with the Twins.
Oct 31, 2019: Pineda chose free agency.
- Dec 6, 2019: Right-hander Michael Pineda agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the Twins.
|Birth City:||Yaguate, D.R.|
|Draft:||2005 - Mariners - Free agent - Out of the D.R.|
|2013||AL||DL - YANKEES||$528.00|
Pineda has an explosive 91-97 mph CUT FASTBALL with lots of armside run to tie up righthanded batters.. He has a good 84-87 mph SLIDER with tilt and late bite at times, and what is becoming a good CHANGEUP that is 88-89 mph and has the same motion and arm speed as his heater, keeping it low and getting hitters to chase it. (Spring 2012)
Michael gets very good life on all his pitches. Therefore, hitters just don't square up on the ball well.
2016 Season Pitch Usage: Cutter 51.3% of the time; Change 7.3% of the time; and Slider 41.2% of the time;
2017 Season Pitch Usage: Cutter 48.2% of the time; Change 13.7%; Slider 37.7% of the time.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 55.5% of the time, his Change 15.2%; and Slider 29.2% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 92.9 mph, Change 87.4, Slider 84.2 mph.
2012: Pineda has deceptive arm action with his changeup.
"It's become a great pitch for me," he said of the changeup in 2012. "I'm working all the time on getting a better changeup. In the big leagues, you need that extra pitch."
2016: Michael doesn't give up home runs too often, less than one per game: 0.85 HR per 9 innings, as of the start of the 2016 season.
What Pineda has demonstrated is that he likes to elevate his heater when he’s close to a strikeout.
Michael has a loose, whippy three-quarter arm slot. He flashes simple, smooth and easy mechanics that makes his mid- to high-90s cut fastball seem to explode out of his hand. He very tough on hitters, very deceptive.
"It feels like he's on top of you when he lets it go, like you could almost shake his hand," Tacoma catcher Adam Moore said. "His delivery is so smooth, it makes it seem like he's throwing even harder."
But it's one thing to throw hard—there are plenty of pitchers that do that. Pineda has a veteran's command, particularly with a fastball that has plenty of natural movement.
"He hits his spots," Moore said. "His fastball reminds me of Felix Hernandez the way it cuts and runs. You don't see guys that young with that kind of stuff with his type of command."
Michael wants to do everything he can to get better.
- He pitches inside real well—fearlessly working hitters.
Pineda is an imposing presence on the mound, at 6-foot-7, 240 pounds. He is thick across the shoulders and hips.
Physically, he is similar to Yankees lefty C.C. Sabathia and has the same hulking presence on the mound. When a man that big throws that hard the ball appears to be halfway to the plate by the time he lets it go.
In 2011, Pineda led all American League rookie starters in strikeouts (173), was second in innings pitched (171), and fourth in ERA (3.74).
His statistics stacked up against the best in the league in many categories, not just in rookie rankings. He finished second in the American League behind Toronto's Brandon Morrow in strikeouts per nine innings pitched (9.11) and was fourth in opponent's batting average (.210), trailing only Justin Verlander, Jeremy Hellickson, and Josh Beckett.
His WHIP (walks and hits per inning) of 1.10 was eighth in the league, behind Verlander, Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Beckett, James Shields, Doug Fister and Josh Tomlin.
Pineda has long been talked about as having that level of front-line ability [like Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling], beginning with his All-Star campaign in 2011 for the Mariners. Health has been a stumbling block, but Pineda's arsenal and demeanor have always made him a tough at-bat, Rodriguez said.
"His hat is sideways, so you don't know if he's looking at you," Alex Rodriguez said. "I remember [Derek] Jeter and I would say, 'We're facing this guy? He's not even looking at home plate. He's like looking behind us.' I said, 'What kind of stuff does this guy have, Jeet?' He said, 'Very uncomfortable.'"
When Pineda is on his game, his body language speaks volumes. "The gyrations, the smiling, all of it -- it's entertainment," manager Joe Girardi said. "But he feels good about where he's at physically. He had a normal winter."
Catcher Brian McCann said: "The ball's coming out with the same velocity, with some cut. He threw a couple of changeups that were really nice that had some good action. His slider was there as well. When he has all three of those things—I keep repeating myself—but he's as tough to hit as anybody." (Hoch - mlb.com - 3/9/15)
May 10, 2015: Pineda's 16 strikeouts in seven innings of a win over the Orioles equaled the most by a Yankees righthander, and were two shy of tying Ron Guidry's club record. The 16 strikeouts also matched the most any Major League pitcher has had in a seven-inning outing.
July 6, 2019: How exactly has Pineda changed after two surgeries and a year and a half away from Major League action? For one, he has focused more in the last two to three years on developing and using his changeup as a weapon alongside his fastball and slider.
He only got strikes with six of his 19 changeups in the game against the Rangers, but he felt good about his command and felt that the pitch helped his slider be more effective.
“Everybody knows that I'm a slider guy,” Pineda said. “I throw a lot of sliders in games. But right now, I try to focus and use more of my changeup. The changeup is a hard pitch for the hitter because it's a pitch that's similar to the fastball. That's why I'm focusing on the changeup right now. But I love my slider."
- As of the start of the 2018 season, Pineda has a career record of 32-37 with 3.99 ERA, having allowed 71 home runs and 549 hits in 583 innings.
April 25-Mid-May 2009: Pineda was on the D.L. with some tightness near his right elbow while doing some work in the bullpen.
August 28, 2010: The Mariners decided to shut Michael down for precautionary reasons.
"The simple reason is because of innings," said GM Jack Zduriencik, who added that the Mariners had a plan from the beginning of the year to limit Pineda to 140 to 150 innings in 2010.
"Our decision is that we think this is a prized product of ours and a guy we want to protect."
March 31, 2012: An MRI of Pineda's sore right shoulder showed no structural damage, just tendinitis. But he started the season on the D.L.
When he started to throw in a mock game situation in extended spring training in Tampa on April 20, more pain returned to his shoulder, and he had to stop.
Pineda ended up requiring surgery to repair an anterior labral tear of his (right) pitching shoulder on May 1, 2012, costing him the entire season. Recovery time is normally 12 to 15 months.
Labrum tears are significant, but pitchers can and do recover. In recent years, Chris Carpenter, Trevor Hoffman, Ted Lilly, and Curt Schilling have been examples of positive return stories; others, like Mark Prior, Ben Sheets and Brandon Webb have not enjoyed such successful comebacks.
March 2013: Michael was still recovering from the labrum surgery as of the start of spring training. He was not expected to return until June.
August 2, 2013: Pineda was shut down for over a week with shoulder stiffness.
May 6-Aug. 11, 2014: Michael was on the D.L. with soreness in the right side of his back. It was diagnosed via MRI as a Grade 1 strain of the teres major muscle.
June 1, 2014: Pineda suffered a setback after a recurrence of the shoulder muscle soreness that landed him on the D.L. in the first place.
July 30-Aug. 26, 2015: Pineda was on the D.L. with a right flexor forearm muscle strain.
July 11, 2017: Pineda was on the DL with right UCL injury.
July 14, 2017: Michael is expected to miss the remainder of the season after being diagnosed with a flexor muscle strain and a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
July 18, 2017: Pineda underwent Tommy John surgery.
March 2018: Michael began the season on the DL while still recovering from TJ surgery, not expecting to back until September.
August 28-Oct 29, 2018: Pineda was diagnosed with a slight meniscus tear in his right knee and missed the remainder of the season.
May 28-June 7, 2019: Pineda was on the IL with right knee tendinitis
- Aug 3-15, 2019: Pineda was placed on the 10-day IL with a right triceps strain. Rocco Baldelli characterized it as more of a discomfort in the muscle that arose during his last start against the Marlins, when he was lifted after 80 pitches.