Michael Pineda makes a strong impression in Yankees debut

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Michael Pineda made his Yankees debut on Saturday against the Blue Jays, more than two years after he joined the club in the trade that sent then-prospect Jesus Montero to the Mariners. During spring training, Pineda injured the labrum in his right shoulder and eventually underwent surgery in May. Pineda missed all of the 2012 season and most of the 2013 season recovering.

In June last season, Pineda was finally cleared to begin pitching against live competition. He joined the Single-A Tampa Yankees for two starts, then the Double-A Trenton Thunder for two starts, and finally the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders for six starts. In total, the right-hander posted a 3.32 ERA with 41 strikeouts and 14 unintentional walks in 40 2/3 innings. The final step was spring training. In 15 innings this past spring, Pineda posted a 1.20 ERA with 16 strikeouts and one walk. At the end of March, manager Joe Girardi announced that Pineda would, at long last, be a part of the Yankees’ rotation.

In his Yankees debut tonight, the 25-year-old right-hander held the Jays to one run on five hits with no walks and five strikeouts over six innings. The Yankees, unfortunately, couldn’t support him with any offense and Pineda took a tough-luck loss. According to Pitch F/X, Pineda was in the 92-94 MPH range, hitting 95 at times.

The real test, of course, will be Pineda’s ability to turn in solid outings on a consistent basis. But step one, at least, was a huge success. The Yankees, who lost first baseman Mark Teixeira to injury on Friday, could use some uplifting news right about now.

Mets acquire Jacob Rhame from Dodgers

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The Mets acquired right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers, the team announced on Sunday. Rhame is the player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Curtis Granderson to Los Angeles on Friday night. He’s expected to report to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.

Rhame, 24, pitched through his second Triple-A campaign with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017, collecting two saves in 41 appearances and logging a 4.31 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 48 innings. While his ERA saw a sharp spike from its modest 3.29 mark in 2016 (perhaps thanks in part to a midseason DL stint due to an undisclosed injury), he’s controlling the ball better than he has in several years and has drawn some attention with a fastball that occasionally touches 98 MPH on the radar gun.

The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been at its finest over the last few weeks, ranking 16th among its major league competitors with a collective 4.50 ERA and 2.4 fWAR, but likely isn’t looking to add an extreme fly ball pitcher to its staff just yet. Until he gets his big league break, Rhame will beef up Triple-A Vegas’ relief corps alongside fellow right-handers Yaisel Sierra, Joe Broussard and Josh Ravin.

Cardinals and Pirates prepare to play unusual finale in first-ever MLB Little League Classic

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The Pirates and Cardinals will switch things up for Sunday’s series finale, moving from the spacious PNC Park to the renovated Minor League confines of BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field. Normally the home stadium for the Phillies’ Short-Season Single-A Williamsport Crosscutters, Historic Bowman Field will set the stage for an unusual — and unprecedented — matchup between the NL Central rivals as they take the field for the first-ever MLB Little League Baseball Classic.

The game will cap a packed day for Major League and Little League participants alike, as four Little League double-elimination games will be played in the morning and afternoon before the Pirates’ Ivan Nova and Cardinals’ Mike Leake face off at 7:00 PM ET. Despite drawing national attention, the Classic will be invitation-only, and its projected 2,366 attendees will comprise the lowest capacity attendance figure in Major League history.

The event is designed to spark more interest in the sport, especially among young players, and Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny called it “grassroots marketing at its finest.” “We all fell in love with the game and started dreaming about playing on a field like this at the age of these kids we’re going to go see in Williamsport,” he told reporters prior to Sunday’s game. “I hope there are some kids that we can encourage and maybe give a different look of the game and create some lifelong baseball fans that might not have been there otherwise.”

Judging by the excitement that infused the pregame festivities among the players, it looks like they’re already on the right track.