Commentary

Pineiro's poor outing raises questions

Should Angels be worried after the right-hander gives up nine earned runs to Detroit?

Updated: April 30, 2010, 10:44 PM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

Joel Pineiro couldn't stop talking about his new team's defense after he signed a two-year, $16 million deal to join the Los Angeles Angels a few months ago. He did a little research and figured guys like Erick Aybar, Kendry Morales and Brandon Wood would scoop up the ground balls he tends to induce.

The feeling was mutual. Frankly, the Angels probably wouldn't have bothered with a pitcher coming off one good season in the National League if they weren't confident their infield defense could sweep up after him. Friday was a case of mutual disappointment. The Angels' defense let down Pineiro by booting three playable groundballs at Comerica Park in a 10-6 loss to Detroit, and Pineiro let down his defense. Nobody had much of a play on the three balls that went soaring -- or, in one case, screaming -- out of the big yard.

Joel Pineiro
AP Photo/Duane BurlesonThe last time Joel Pineiro gave up nine runs in a game was four years ago.

You can't catch what you can't reach.

The awfulness of Pineiro's evening in Detroit harkens to his final full season in the American League, 2006, and that a raises an ominous question. After consecutive miserable starts while facing teams for the second time around, you have to wonder if Pineiro's not sinking in the quicksand of American League lineups.

The record book tells us the last time Pineiro gave up nine runs in an outing, he was still pitching for the Seattle Mariners and facing the Oakland Athletics four years ago.

It's ridiculously unfair to give up on Pineiro because of two poor starts. He looked awfully competent while taming perhaps the three best lineups in the league in his first three starts, limiting the Minnesota Twins and then shutting down the New York Yankees and the Tigers. Maybe these past two starts have just been a result of falling behind too many hitters and starting too many sinkers at thigh level.

But Pineiro has far from electric stuff and both the Yankees and Tigers looked eminently comfortable strolling into the batter's box against him when they got a second chance. There has been a long legacy of dominant National League pitchers who turned into pinatas when they suddenly had to face lineups free of weak-hitting No. 8 hitters and non-hitting pitchers.

Ask Jake Peavy (7.85 ERA) about moving to the AL. Ask Javier Vazquez about going back there (9.00 ERA). If things keep going like this for him, ask Pineiro.

By the numbers

The Angels finished April at 12-12, which is not particularly exciting but is also not particularly alarming.

This team has a tendency to start slowly. Its best April record since 2001 was 18-10 in 2008, but the norm has been mediocre starts: Last year, the Angels went 9-12 in April and 88-53 the rest of the summer. In 2002, the Angels started 6-14 before finishing April hot and going 11-14; in 2004, another good season, the Angels started out 13-10.

Minor movers

Ryan Brasier picked an auspicious night to pull a rare feat -- a minor-league no-hitter. Angels general manager Tony Reagins was in the stands at Double-A Arkansas along with minor-league pitching coordinator Kernan Ronan.

Brasier doesn't show up on any lists of the Angels' top prospects, but given time he might. He was making only his 18th career start after being turned into a pitcher just a few years ago at Weatherford Junior College in Texas.

Brasier proved he has some talent. He walked two batters and struck out three, throwing 75 of his 111 pitches for strikes. It was the first no-hitter at Dickey-Stephens Park and the first in the Texas League since 2002.

Angels minor-league right-hander Sean O'Sullivan pitched a no-hitter last July 28.

Looking ahead

The Angels would love to see Scott Kazmir become more efficient with his pitches, but the young left-hander has struggled to put away hitters using a two-pitch repertoire. Kazmir has been searching for his slider -- formerly his strikeout pitch -- since last year. He has been getting by with a fastball and changeup. Kazmir (2-1) has averaged just five innings per start and has a 7.20 ERA. The Angels will face another sinkerball pitcher, Jeremy Bonderman (1-1, 6.97 ERA).

Mark Saxon, who reported from Los Angeles, covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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