As Michael Pineda walked off the mound for what could be the last time as a twin, the noise level in the target field steadily increased until Pineda put on his hat as he acknowledged the crowd.
Pineda is a free agent at the end of the season and if that was indeed his last debut as a twin, he would drop a winner. Pineda conceded a run in 5 2/3 innings as the Twins beat the Tigers 5-2 at target field on Wednesday night.
The consistent right-handed batsman, who worked with the lead for most of the start, worked his way through traffic after a three-run home run in the first innings by Jorge Polanco, but managed to subdue the Tigers (75-83). Even after this, taking a comeback person on his feet. It was a debut that has seen the Twins (71-87) have several outings from him over the past three years.
Pineda originally signed with the Twins before the 2018 season, which he completely missed as he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery and then dealt with a knee injury. The right-handed batsman was pitching well during the second half of the 2019 season before receiving an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a banned diuretic.
Although Pineda missed the postseason, the twins stuck with him, earning him another two-year deal before last season. While the suspension combined with a bitten season wiped out most of his 2020, Pineda responded by posting a 3.62 earned-run average in 22 games – 21 starts – in 2021.
He has also made an incomparable impact on the Twins off the field.
“He has been a pillar for us in our clubhouse,” said manager Rocco Baldelli. “You better believe that when you’re walking in and out of (the clubhouse), you’re going to see Big Mike. He’s been just as important a member of this group over the past three years as he is. Anybody. He’s been steady, his performance has been steady, his leadership has been steady.”
The Twins enter this offseason in need of starting pitching, and Pineda has often spoken about how much he’s enjoyed his time in and with the Twins in Minnesota.
Can he come back?
His manager is hopeful.
“I’d love to go ahead and bring Mike back here. Big Mike also has to do what’s best for him and his career. That’s the nature of baseball,” Baldelli said. “But he’s been a guy that I think everybody will be following, everybody will be following, going into the off-season, still talking to him, seeing what he’s thinking, Seeing how things are going, and we’ll see how it plays out.”