Right-hander Michael Pineda has been diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his right knee and will not pitch in the Majors this season, Twins manager Paul Molitor revealed to reporters (Twitter links via Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). Lefty Adalberto Mejia is also done for the season due a nerve issue in his left arm that’ll require more than the remaining five weeks to sufficiently heal.
The knee injury for Pineda is a discouraging one, as the right-hander had all but worked his way back to health following 2017 Tommy John surgery and had been expected to make a few starts for the Twins in September. The silver lining is that Pineda’s arm is seemingly fine, and he should be ready for Spring Training without any real health restrictions.
Minnesota’s signing of Pineda to a two-year, $10MM contract was never about the 2018 season anyhow. While the club would’ve considered it a bonus had the big right-hander been able to pitch out of the ’pen or make a few starts in September, the real goal of the signing was to acquire a talented arm to insert into the 2019 rotation.
Pineda has struggled to find consistency in the Majors, but he’s averaged 9.1 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9 while racking up grounders at a roughly league-average clip. That’s a favorable combination of skills for any pitcher, and Pineda will be viewed as an important piece in what the Twins hope will be a considerably better 2019 season.
As for Mejia, he could also be a part of the rotation picture next season, though the lack of a September platform to make his case for that role is disheartening for him in its own right. Minnesota acquired the now-25-year-old lefty from the Giants in the July 2016 trade that sent Eduardo Nunez to San Francisco, and he went on to make 21 starts for the Twins in 2017, working to a 4.50 ERA through 98 innings. Mejia notched a 3.32 ERA with 8.8 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 in 62 1/3 Triple-A frames in 2018, and he’s posted a 2.01 ERA in 24 1/3 innings in the Majors this year.
The Twins’ rotation in 2019 currently projects to feature Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi. Pineda should be favored to hold down one of the two vacancies, and there’ll be several candidates to take the fifth starter’s job, including Mejia, Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Kohl Stewart, Zack Littell and perhaps Trevor May. Minnesota could also look to either free-agent market or trade market this offseason for further rotation help, perhaps looking to condense some of those depth options into a more definitive upgrade to bolster the starting staff.