Pineda big loss for Yanks, but it’s no time to panic

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS - Bob Klapisch Klapisch writes for The ( Ber­gen County, N. J.) Record, part of the USA TO­DAY Net­work.

News of Michael Pineda’s par­tially torn ul­nar col­lat­eral lig­a­ment is an across- the- board bum­mer — for the New York Yan­kees, who have been dealt a se­vere blow to their play­off chances, and for Pineda him­self, an in­con­sis­tent but tal­ented pitcher who was head­ing to­ward free agency af­ter this sea­son.

The Yan­kees prob­a­bly would have let Pineda walk, but ev­ery­one likes the guy. He de­served bet­ter than to blow out his el­bow.

The ob­vi­ous ques­tion is, where does gen­eral man­ager Brian Cash­man go to find a re­place­ment. But the bet­ter ques­tion is, how far the Yan­kees are will­ing to de­vi­ate from their busi­ness plan just to get to the wild- card game. The temp­ta­tion is enor­mous: The Bos­ton Red Sox are still within reach. Ex­cept for the Hous­ton As- tros, the rest of the Amer­i­can League is wide open.

But the prob­lem is how few dif­fer­ence- mak­ers are avail­able on the trade mar­ket. With the Chicago Cubs’ ac­qui­si­tion of Jose Quin­tana, all that’s re­ally left are the Oak­land Ath­let­ics’ Sonny Gray and Pitts­burgh Pi­rates’ Ger­rit Cole. Both would cost the Yan­kees plenty, and al­though ei­ther pitcher would ob­vi­ously bol­ster the ro­ta­tion, there are other is­sues that could de­tail the Yan­kees by them­selves.

The first is Masahiro Tanaka and whether he can avoid the pe­ri­odic clunkers that have blem­ished his sea­son. The mad­den­ing lack of con­sis­tency is what keeps the Yan­kees from feel­ing like the play­offs are a sure thing.

The sec­ond is Dellin Be­tances, who’s the Yan­kees’ big­gest enigma. Un­less he fixes the fa­tal flaw in his de­liv­ery, Be­tances will be plagued by bad counts and walks and will other­wise be un­able to act as a de­pend­able bridge to closer Aroldis Chap­man.

Un­til the Yan­kees get clar­ity on their ace and their bullpen with its ma­jors worst- worst 18 blown saves, pur­su­ing an­other starter — es­pe­cially one that would cost them a prospect like Blake Rutherford or Jus­tus Sh­effield — would be a mis­take.

Re­mem­ber the orig­i­nal hori­zon: 2017 was sup­posed to be the sum­mer of build­ing eq­uity, a free au­di­tion for the kids. Any fan who knew in spring train­ing the Yan­kees would be four games over .500 and 31⁄ out at the break 2 gladly would have taken that. Gam­bling on a bet­ter stretch run isn’t worth raid­ing the farm sys­tem.

It’s hard to find an ex­ec­u­tive who’d switch places with Cash­man now as he sits atop a pipe­line of tal­ented mi­nor lea­guers, in­clud­ing Gley­ber Tor­res, who’ll be re­cov­ered from el­bow surgery by next spring. Give it two years, and Pineda will be long for­got­ten.

That’s not to di­min­ish how much the Bombers will miss the right- han­der’s ta­lent, how­ever, and his po­ten­tial for mas­ter­pieces. When he was on, Pineda was as dom­i­nant as any­one in the ro­ta­tion. No one threw a more lethal cut fast­ball. At 94.3 mph, it ranked tops in the ma­jors in ve­loc­ity.

But Pineda’s sum­mer was full of un­even per­for­mances, and per­haps now we know why — his el­bow was killing him. As man­ager Joe Gi­rardi said Fri­day, “Michael al­ways talked about how his el­bow was sore the day af­ter and it was some­thing he was used to ( dur­ing his Yan­kees ten­ure).”

Al­though Pineda is go­ing for a sec­ond opin­ion, he al­ready has opted for Tommy John surgery. Ei­ther way, his ca­reer with the Yan­kees is over — a shock­ing set­back to the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Only the tim­ing works in the Yan­kees’ fa­vor. With two weeks to go be­fore the trade dead­line, the sched­ule al­lows for two to three starts for a blue- chip prospect like Chance Adams. He’s strik­ing out more than a bat­ter an in­ning at Class AAA and has lim­ited op­po­nents to a .167 bat­ting av­er­age against but has is­sues with his con­trol.

If Adams gets called up and fails, Cash­man might in­deed re­think the Yan­kees’ po­si­tion as buy­ers. He might just go for it.

Our hunch, how­ever, is that the Yan­kees will re­act cau­tiously and think about the long game. The real goal is 2019. That’s the smart move.

BRAD PEN­NER, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Michael Pineda has a par­tially torn ul­nar col­lat­eral lig­a­ment in his el­bow and is likely to have Tommy John surgery.

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