Pineda Ready To Make Big League Leap For M's





PEORIA, Ariz. — A year ago at this time, Michael Pineda was preparing for his first start in Double-A.

In the course of an eventful year, however, he went from West Tenn to Triple-A Tacoma over 25 starts, going a combined 11-4, 3.36 with 154 strikeouts and 34 walks in 139 innings. His next regular season start is likely to be in the big leagues with Seattle.

The Mariners are cognizant of the issues with having a 22-year-old start the season in the big leagues, both in terms of free agency and salary arbitration down the line. But Seattle is looking at Pineda and seeing the rare combination of a 98-mph fastball, along with exceptional control.

General manager Jack Zduriencik said the club will take the best pitcher, and with veteran lefty Nate Robertson (elbow surgery) no longer a contender, it's down to Pineda and lefty Luke French, and Pineda seems to be leading that race.

Pineda, whom the Mariners signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2005, is listed in the team media guide at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, but he's since sprouted to 6-7 and 260 pounds. He doesn't seem to have lost any of his athleticism. His fastball moves well through the zone and his changeup is above-average for a young power pitcher.

"It's (become) a great pitch for me," he said of the changeup. "I'm working all the time on getting a better changeup. In the big leagues, you need that extra pitch."
He still has some trouble with his slider, but he's made adjustments through the spring that have brought about some improvements.

Coming into his final two starts of the spring, Pineda had a 3.27 ERA And he's got a good mental grasp on the game, thanks to Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez taking an interest.

"He and me, we talk a lot," Pineda said. "He knows so much about the game. I'm lucky to have a chance like this, that he wants to talk pitching with me."

MARINADE

• Third baseman Matt Mangini is out of the Mariners' plans for a while after having reinjured the quad strain that slowed him in Triple-A Tacoma last year. He only had 12 spring at-bats when the injury reasserted itself.

• First baseman Rich Poythress hammered a couple of homers off veteran lefthander Erik Bedard in a minor league intrasquad game March 16. It's not an unfamiliar story. Poythress hit 31 homers and drove in 130 runs for high Class A High Desert last year and was the Mariners' minor league player of the year.