Michael Pineda AP

Michael Pineda makes his case for a rotation spot


Dogged by shoulder issues, Michael Pineda has yet to throw a regular season pitch for the Yankees since being acquired from the Mariners two offseasons ago, but he showed a glimpse of his old form last night.

Making his spring debut, Pineda tossed two scoreless innings in a Grapefruit League game against the Tigers. Topping out at 93 mph with his fastball, he allowed one hit and struck out four while throwing 21 out of 27 pitches for strikes. His slider drew raves from catcher Brian McCann and induced a strikeout from Miguel Cabrera on a check-swing.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn’t want to get carried away with just one outing, but he told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News that he was encouraged with what he saw.

“We like what we saw,” Girardi said. “I don’t want to make too much of it, but I’ve said all along he looks different what we’ve seen this spring compared to a couple springs ago. He’s cleaned up his mechanics a lot. This is a good step.”

Pineda is currently competing with David Phelps and Adam Warren for the fifth spot in the rotation, but it might not be much of a battle if last night is a sign of things to come. It would be a huge boost to the Yankees if he’s finally healthy.

Pineda, 25, posted a 3.74 ERA and 173/55 K/BB ratio over 171 innings as a rookie in 2011.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.

The Cardinals are optimistic about Yadier Molina’s status

St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina celebrates as he arrives home after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina‘s bum thumb responded well after participating in baseball activities Tuesday, including catching, hitting, blocking balls and the like.

This morning Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he’s now even more optimistic that Molina will be on the NLDS roster. The Cards’ first game will be Friday against the winner of tonight’s Cubs-Pirates tilt.

Having Molina would obviously be a boon for the Cardinals on the field. For a look at what Molina means to the Cardinals off the field, however, take some time to go read Derrick Goold’s excellent story about what Molina’s teammates think of him. Short version: the world. It’s worth your time, even if you’re not a citizen of Cardinals Nation.