FORT MYERS, Fla. — When the Twins inked Michael Pineda to a two-year deal before the 2020 season, they knew he was going to miss part of the first year of his contract. They didn’t expect him to miss most of it.
Because of the pandemic-shortened season, Pineda, who had to serve the remainder of his suspension after testing positive for a banned diuretic a season earlier, wound up making just five starts. Had the season started on time, Pineda would have been expected back in May.
The veteran right-hander feels healthy and strong coming into spring training, but the Twins will be mindful of his history when plotting a course for him this season, especially as the innings start piling up. What that means and what it will look like, whether it means an extra day or two of rest or something else, will be something the Twins will have to figure out as they go along.
Pineda hasn’t thrown a full season since 2016 when he made a career-high 32 starts, throwing a career-high 175 2/3 innings. His 2017 season was cut short as he required Tommy John surgery, and his 2018 was entirely wiped out as he recovered from the elbow procedure.
Pineda dealt with a couple injured list stints but was mostly healthy during the 2019 campaign before his 60-game suspension hit, taking him out of the Twins’ rotation in September and forcing him to miss the playoffs and most of 2020’s truncated season.
“Michael Pineda hasn’t thrown as much. … Where Kenta (Maeda) and Jose (Berrios), we may not start trying to do stuff until they get hypothetically and I’m just throwing out numbers here, 120 (innings) or so just because we feel comfortable with the workload, where Michael Pineda may be more toward an 80 innings (when) really you’re diving in and looking at everything he’s doing,” pitching coach Wes Johnson said.
Pineda spent the beginning of last season throwing at the Twins’ alternate site at CHS Field in St. Paul as he prepared to come off his suspension. In his five starts, he went 2-0 with a 3.38 earned-run average in 26 2/3 innings. A year before that, he threw 146 innings.
Pineda said he spent his offseason down in the Dominican Republic and didn’t change anything with his routine, just trying to prepare his body for a 162-game season.
“I spent a lot of time in the Dominican and tried to keep my body in shape, especially my heart,” Pineda said. “I’m so excited. I’ll be ready for pitching in the first week of the season.”
Gang's (almost) all here
The Twins had nearly their full assortment of pitchers and catchers in camp on Sunday as many of those who had been absent during the first couple of days cleared intake testing and were able to workout at the CenturyLink Sports Complex for the first time on Sunday.
New arrivals to camp on Sunday included relievers Tyler Duffey and Jorge Alcala, and starters Matt Shoemaker and Jhoan Duran, one of the organization’s top prospects, along with a handful of others.
Thirteen players were initially delayed when pitchers and catchers began their workouts on Friday for a variety of reasons from extreme weather conditions across the country, visa issues and COVID-19. Only a few players of that group have not yet worked out with the team, most notably J.A. Happ, who the Twins revealed on Saturday had tested positive for the coronavirus.