Pineda comeback gaining momentum

It certainly looks as if Michael Pineda is the real deal. The Yankees had to wait it out for the righthander to recover fully from shoulder surgery in May 2012, only four months after he was acquired in a trade from the Mariners that sent catching prospect Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi to Seattle.

Pineda did not pitch in the major leagues last year or the season before, a long wait for the Yankees to find out if the trade was to their benefit. He pitched in 40 2/3 innings in three minor-league stops in the Yankees’ system in 2013. But with Montero lingering in the minor leagues and Noesi released by the Mariners, the swap is leaning in the Yankees’ favor.

Pineda turned in another solid outing Thursday night and earned his first victory since 2011 as the Yankees turned back the Red Sox, 4-1. Pineda took a no-hitter into the fifth inning against the defending World Series champions and lasted two batters into the seventh before manager Joe Girardi went to his bullpen.

Through two starts covering 12 innings, Pineda is pitching to a 1.50 ERA. He did not allow a hit Thursday night until the fifth inning when Xander Bogaerts led off with a single to left and held Boston scoreless until the seventh when Daniel Nava led off with his first home run of the season. Bogaerts followed with a single up the middle, which brought Girardi to the mound.

The manager was delighted at what he saw for six-plus innings from Pineda, an imposing 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds who walked two batters and struck out seven. The Yankees gave him the lead with two unearned runs off Clay Buchholz in the fourth inning and tacked on two runs in the fifth, including second baseman Dean Anna’s first career home run.

“We’re very encouraged,” Girardi said of Pineda. “He threw first-pitch strikes and gave us length, which we really needed.”

Girardi was hit with post-game questions about video replays circulated on social media showing a substance in Pineda’s right hand. On cold nights, it is not uncommon for pitchers to use pine tar to improve their grip. I saw Buchholz reach back at a spot on his neck to touch something, which was probably the same thing. Pineda made no secret of whatever it was to umpires as he exposed his palm numerous times.

In his first game against his old team, Jacoby Ellsbury had 1-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Derek Jeter raised his batting average to .290 with a single and a double. David Phelps earned his first career save with 2 1/3 innings of hitless, three-strikeout relief.

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