What Michael Pineda expects to bring Detroit Tigers: ‘My goal is to help the team win’

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — Michael Pineda didn’t receive any significant interest on the free-agent market before MLB’s lockout.

Then, the 33-year-old had to wait 99 days.

“It’s tough,” Pineda said Sunday morning. “It’s hard. I’ve been in the league for a little bit, and I’ve never seen nothing like this. I’m not going to say I was a little nervous, but I don’t know. But everything is done. We have two weeks to be ready to play baseball.”

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The lockout lasted from Dec. 2 until March 10, and eight days after the transaction freeze ended, Pineda signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. He completed his physical examination Saturday morning to finalize the deal.

Now, he is ready to win.

“I’m focused on the Tigers giving me the opportunity to be here,” Pineda said. “I’m so excited and happy to be here. I want to help the team win games and get in the playoffs.”

But Pineda, a right-handed starting pitcher, can’t get started until his work visa is in place.

He has a 10-year tourist visa, allowing him to legally travel between the Dominican Republic and the United States as often as he desires. He has a place where he lives in both countries and sat in front of his locker Sunday in the clubhouse at the TigerTown complex.

Pineda had his first conversation with pitching coach Chris Fetter and is getting ready for the season.

“I’m pretty close (to being ready),” Pineda said. “I tried to keep my body and my arm in shape. Everything was crazy in baseball, but we had to be ready. At whatever time baseball came (back), I had to be ready to play.”

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Still, Pineda can’t play — nor can the Tigers pay him — until he has a work visa. Transitioning from a tourist visa to a work visa typically takes seven days from the application date, so Pineda could be active with the Tigers within the next week.

The process features a much quicker turnaround compared to a player outside of the country — Wily Peralta in the Dominican Republic, for example — applying for a work visa. Until Peralta gets a work visa, he can’t enter the United States.

Pineda, though, is already stateside.

“I don’t really know the process,” Pineda said. “But I know the process is quick. Hopefully, the quicker they can get it, I can have a normal practice with my team, and I can go out there and pitch.”

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He threw a couple bullpens in the Dominican Republic before the Tigers signed him for 2022, though those aren’t the same as throwing bullpens while working with teammates and coaches.

Pineda isn’t the Opening Day starter — a title that belongs to left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who signed a five-year, $77 million contract in November — but he hopes to be ready for his first scheduled start of the regular season.

“That is my goal,” he said.

An eight-year MLB veteran, Pineda posted a 3.62 ERA with 21 walks and 88 strikeouts across 109⅓ innings in 22 games (21 starts) last season for the Minnesota Twins.

He has pitched for the Seattle Mariners (2011), New York Yankees (2014-17) and Twins (2019-21), logging a career 3.98 ERA in 170 games. He boasts a 3.62 ERA with nine walks and 70 strikeouts over 11 starts against the Tigers.

“He brings a lot of experience,” Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario said. “He pitched in really good games when he was with the Yankees and the Twins. He can bring that to the young guys, and the young guys got to pick his brain. He knows how to pitch. He knows how to throw the ball the right way and pick his spots. That’s a good addition to our starters. We’re excited.”

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The Tigers’ starting rotation is now set, in this order: Rodriguez, right-hander Casey Mize, left-hander Tarik Skubal, righty Matt Manning and Pineda. Mize, Skubal and Manning completed their rookie seasons in 2021.

Everyone has big plans for 2022.

“The number one thing, my goal is to help the team win games, get to the playoffs and win the World Series,” Pineda said. “That is my goal, and I want to do everything I can to help the team do that.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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