The Twins announced today that righty Michael Pineda has been placed on the 10-day injured list with right knee tendinitis. He’ll be replaced on the active roster by lefty Devin Smeltzer, whose contract was selected.
Pineda’s right knee represents one of only a few concerns with a Minnesota roster that has fired on all cylinders to open the year. He underwent meniscus surgery in the same joint late last season, thwarting his effort to make it back to the big leagues in 2018.
Thus far in 2019, the 30-year-old righty owns a 5.34 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 59 frames. In many respects, Pineda looks like much the same pitcher he has always been. His pitch mix is familiar; though he has lost some velocity, averaging 92.7 mph on his fastball, he is generating swinging strikes (11.7%) at close to his career rate (12.5%).
Even as his team thrives on hitting homers, Pineda has been done in by the long ball. He’s allowing 2.14 per nine on a 17.1% HR/FB rate. Pineda is drawing far more contact in the air than ever before, with a 0.76 GB/FB rate that lags well behind his career 1.19 mark.
Entering the year, Pineda had never allowed a double-digit average launch angle. Opposing hitters are sitting at 17.5 degrees in 2019. And Statcast’s figures suggest he has actually been a bit fortunate, giving him a .338 wOBA and .350 xwOBA.
Some adjustments are obviously in order for Pineda, though obviously the first order of business will be getting his knee back to health. It is not known at this time what kind of timeline the club anticipates.
Meanwhile, the club will get its first look at the 23-year-old Smeltzer, who came to Minnesota in last summer’s Brian Dozier swap. He’s an increasingly interesting hurler to watch. As chief baseball officer Derek Falvey explains, the club “had some ideas around pitch mix adjustment” and other such tweaks that Smeltzer has adopted to promising effect. (Via Dan Hayes of The Athletic, on Twitter.)
Through 54 2/3 innings in nine upper minors starts this season, Smeltzer carries a sparkling 1.15 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9. He has allowed only 39 hits and two home runs, though both of those shots have come since he was promoted to Triple-A. Smeltzer’s K/BB mix has also taken a step back at the highest level of the minors.