Pineiro pleased with first appearance

Pineiro pleased with first spring appearance

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Before Joel Pineiro toed the rubber at Holman Stadium on Friday, his teammates already had given him a 2-0 lead. Pineiro was thankful for the support, but leery of what it meant.

Like Bob Dylan, Pineiro did not need a weatherman to know which way the wind blew.

The flags at Dodgertown stuck stiffly out toward center field, presenting a special challenge for any and all hurlers on a warm afternoon. Get a ball up, and it was likely to leave the yard. Not exactly a plum assignment for Pineiro in his first Grapefruit League start of the year.

He made it work, though, breezing through a 1-2-3 first inning on 10 pitches. He permitted a long ball to Nomar Garciaparra in the second, but only a single in the third and finished with a solid line.

The results were encouraging to Pineiro, especially given the conditions. Compounding the good feeling was that he had been scratched from his previous start due to shoulder stiffness.

"First you're thinking about, 'How is my arm going to react?'" Pineiro said. "'How is it going to come through for me?' Once you get going, you start warming up and you know you're fine, but it's definitely there till you throw your bullpen and get ready to go."

Pineiro, acquired from the Red Sox last July for a player to be named later, looms as an important figure for St. Louis in 2008. He's the No. 2 or 3 starter in the Cardinals rotation, and he'll be counted on to replicate his showing in 63 2/3 innings after the trade.

As a member of the Redbirds, Pineiro went 6-4 with a 3.96 ERA. He walked just 12 batters in 11 starts, but he also permitted 11 home runs. It was a similar showing on Saturday, as Pineiro allowed Garciaparra's home run but didn't walk anyone.

"I don't like to walk people," Pineiro said. "I'd rather make them hit the ball and earn their way on. I threw strikes and tried to keep the ball down. That was my main concern after I got going."

St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan had two points of emphasis for his new charge when Pineiro came to St. Louis. He felt Pineiro had been tipping pitches, and he helped him eliminate the tell. But mostly, he hammered the importance of Pineiro's fastball.

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Throw the heater for strikes, establish it down in the zone and everything else will follow.

"Last year, what we saw was a guy that had kind of gotten away from using his fastball," Duncan said. "If he [uses his fastball], he'll get more innings because he'll manage his pitch count better."

Pineiro acknowledges that such a style may be more conducive to the National League than the American. Deeper and more dangerous AL lineups often cause pitchers to pick at the corners rather than attacking the strike zone. Pineiro would rather pitch aggressively.

"[In the AL], you nibble against one guy, then you have to nibble against the next guy, and then that's when everything breaks loose," he said. "Here, you can go after little more the seven, eight, nine guys."

It's a fine idea. And it will work even better when he's not pitching in a cozy ballpark with the wind gusting out to the outfield.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.