How does a Major League reputation develop?
Just by doing what Michael Pineda is doing.
The Mariner rookie starter was awarded the American League Rookie of the Month award for April Tuesday, just the third Mariner ever to win the award.
While thats nice, its not something you can build a reputation on. You build a reputation by putting together the kind of numbers that earn you such awards. In Pinedas case, that would be a 4-1 record, a fourth-in-the-AL 2.01 ERA and a four-game winning streak heading into Wednesdays start against Texas, making the AL West leaders the first team in the big leagues to face Pineda a second time.
And you build a reputation by getting the opposing manager, in this case the Rangers Ron Washington, to say stuff like this:
“Theres no advantage to anybody seeing him a second time, not with an arm like that, Washington said before Tuesdays series opener in Safeco Field. “Not at all.
And that comes from the manager of the only team to beat Pineda in the majors. Texas beat him 3-2 back in his first big league start back on April 5. He gave up five hits and one walk in that one, and with a little bit of help from the offense could have won the game.
As it was, he left quite an impression.
“The first time we saw him, he did things we didnt think he could do, Washington said. “He had such command of his pitches the off-speed stuff, the splitter and with the fastball.
Pineda, who at 22 was the third-youngest player in the big leagues on Opening Day, only threw 85 pitches in six innings in that one, and Washington said that has to change if the Rangers want to maximize their chances against Pineda Wednesday.
“The key for us is to get his pitch count up and get him out of the game, Washington said. “So, no, I dont think theres any advantage to seeing him a second time. Its almost going to be like facing another (expletive) Felix (Hernandez).
That last bit was said with a mixture resignation and humility. The Rangers have had more success against defending Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez (13 wins, 10 losses) than any team in baseball and still “you hate having to face him, every time, Washington said.
Washington says teams could quickly come to feel the same way about Pineda, who has batters averaging just .198 against him while having struck out 30 in 31.1 innings. And hes averaging just over two walks per start.
Opposing hitters have sought him out. On the last road trip, Pineda got words of encouragement from Detroits Miguel Cabrera and Bostons David Ortiz, two of the most feared hitters in the league.
“Wow. Im excited; I dont know what to say, Pineda said shortly after the announcement came down. “I was excited to meet Big Papi (Ortiz). He said `Hey, Pineda, Im excited for you. Youre a good pitcher.
“Cabrera said a lot like that, too.
Now that kind of word of mouth, that builds up a reputation.