Michael Pineda could begin throwing off full mound next week

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After throwing off a half-mound last week for the first time since shoulder surgery, Michael Pineda is close to taking the next step in his rehab process. According to Andy McCullough of the Newark Star-Ledger, Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said today that he expects Pineda to progress to his first session off a full mound next week.

“So far, he’s had no setbacks, which is always positive,” he said. “But there’s a long way to go with it, too.”

Pineda is now nine months removed from surgery to repair an anterior labral tear in his right shoulder. The 24-year-old still needs to build his arm strength and will likely require a lengthy minor league rehab assignment, but the Yankees are hopeful that he’ll be ready to pitch in the majors by June or July.

Pineda, who turned 24 last month, had a 3.74 ERA and 173/55 K/BB ratio over 171 innings as a rookie with the Mariners in 2011. The Yankees already project to have CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova in their starting rotation this season, so finding a spot for a healthy Pineda would be a nice problem to have.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

Associated Press
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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”