Bradenton, Fla. — Michael Pineda on Saturday morning passed his physical, signed the one-year, $5.5 million contract and then, like he’d done throughout the 99-day lockout and first week of camp, he waited.
“We’re not going to see him in our camp right now,” manager AJ Hinch said before the Tigers played the Pirates at LECOM Park. “There’s visa considerations, work visa. He’s in Lakeland doing his own throwing. We will see how it works out.”
It’s not as ominous as it sounds. Pineda needs to transfer a visitor visa into a work visa, which could take up to two weeks. Meanwhile, he cannot train with his new club.
“We think he should be ready, maybe not on Opening Day, but close thereafter,” general manager Al Avila said. “He’s not going to be the Opening Day starter anyway, so we have a few days to work with. We are looking at the whole 162-game season here.”
Avila said the 33-year-old Pineda, all 6-7, 300 pounds of him, passed the Tigers’ physical “with flying colors.”
Until he can get into camp and build up his innings, Hinch said lefty Tyler Alexander will remain in the rotation. He’s expected to start Tuesday.
“We told him we would build him up to three-four innings regardless,” Hinch said of Alexander. “Back when the rumors started surfacing that we were talking to and about some extra pitchers, we made Tyler aware he was in kind of a gray area, albeit already on our team.”
Once Pineda is ready, Alexander will revert back to his multi-use bullpen role. Hinch said not to be surprised, given the way a season normally goes, especially one as compacted as this one, if Alexander makes 10 to 15 starts.
“Tyler may start the season in the rotation,” Hinch said. “A lot can happen over the next three weeks that won’t be finalized until we break camp.”
Avila said the signing of Pineda concludes the Tigers’ offseason work. They traded for catcher Tucker Barnhart, signed shortstop Javier Báez (six years, $140 million), lefty starter Eduardo Rodriguez (five years, $77 million), lefty reliever Andrew Chafin (two years, $13 million) and Pineda.
“We identified our needs and we went out and filled our needs,” Avila said. “But for us to be successful, it’s not so much about the guys we just acquired, but it’s also about the young guys that need to take the next step.
“And we have faith and hope that they will.”
The Tigers made a 10-year, $250 million offer to shortstop Carlos Correa before the lockout. On Friday night, Correa signed a three-year, $108 million deal with Central Division-rival Minnesota Twins. Avila said there was no buyer’s remorse whatsoever.
“You can’t predict those type of things,” Avila said. “At the end of the day, we got Báez and we were very happy with that — and we still are happy with that.”
Asked if the deal Correa signed with the Twins was frustrating for him on a personal level, Avila said, “Not frustrating for me at all. When I was reading it, I was saying to myself, kudos to the Twins, kudos to Correa. That’s just the way it fell and I was as impressed as anybody, like, ‘Oh, that’s pretty darn good.’”
Pineda spent the last three seasons with the Twins. He went 9-8 with a 3.62 ERA in 22 appearances (21 starts) last season. He’s a strike-thrower, too. His 69% strike rate was fourth best in baseball (minimum of 100 innings). He went 5-0 in September last year, posting a 1.85 ERA.
“He’s a veteran presence,” Hinch said. “I’ve never met him, but he’s been a credible starter who’s done it a lot of different ways. Early in his career he was a high-velocity guy and now that his velocity is down a little he’s more of a pitch-maker.”
His four-seam averaged a tick over 90 mph last season, but he spotted it well and set up his elite slider, a pitch that opponents hit .199 against with a 37.7% swing-and-miss rate.