The Mariners are shutting down top pitching prospect Michael Pineda for the season after 139 1/3 innings.
"Our decision is that we think this is a prized product of ours and a guy we want to protect," general manager Jack Zdurencik said of the move.
His statement is rather obvious -- teams have been taking strong measures the last few years to protect young pitchers, and baseball will only get more aggressive about coralling the workload of young pitchers -- but even that is no guarantee of staying healthy as Stephen Strasburg can attest to.
Pineda struggled with elbow issues throughout 2009, tallying only 47 1/3 innings. Fully healthy to start 2010, Pineda threw 77 innings in Double-A, posting a 2.22 ERA. In a Triple-A promotion, the 21-year-old has a 4.76 ERA in 62 2/3 innings, whiffing 76 and walking 17. He's widely considered to be the best pitching prospect in the game.
"[There is] nothing physically wrong with him at all," Zdurencik assured. "It's just strictly an innings issue, and again, we figure the best thing to do for our best future and his best future is to stop it right now."
The Mariners are hopeful Pineda can show enough to begin the year in the Mariners' 2011 rotation, as Seattle fights to put a disastrous 2010 behind them.
"We think this guy has a chance to be a quality starter at the Major League level, and we think it's going to happen soon," Zduriencik said.
Seattle will have a wide-open rotation behind ace Felix Hernandez for Pineda to contend for. The play of Jason Vargas and Doug Fister should give the two near-secure spots, but past that, there are two spots available, and Pineda shouldn't have much trouble locking one up with the likes of David Pauley, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Luke French and possibly Erik Bedard as contenders.
-- Evan Brunell
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