Buster Olney raises that question this morning, noting that Mariners’ rookie Michael Pineda has thrown 70 innings so far this year and that, before this year, his high was 139.1. The question he asks is whether the Mariners might cap his innings at some transitional step up — like, say, 170 innings — so as not to overwork the lad.
I don’t know the answer to that. And I don’t know that anyone has a monopoly on wisdom on the subject. As Olney notes, Tim Lincecum was allowed to run wild as a young man and it hasn’t harmed him any. Other teams are more careful with young arms and have mixed results.
I can’t help but look at Felix Hernandez’s career numbers, however, and think that the Mariners aren’t going to go out of their way to limit him. When Hernandez was 18, they had him jump from 60 to around 149 minor league innings. The next year he did 80+ innings at both the major league and minor league levels. Starting at age 20 he went 191, 190, 200, 238, 249.
Yes, there was a decent progression with King Felix before he went into full-on workhorse mode, but he was throwing a huge number of innings years before he was Pineda’s age (22). And the Mariners team on which Pineda pitches is only 1.5 games out of first place right now.
My sense — really, just my guess — is that his “big leap” in innings year has already happened, and that unless he starts to lose effectiveness, the M’s are going to let him push 200 innings like they let Hernandez do in his first full season in the majors, when he was two years younger than Pineda is now.