TORONTO - Michael Pineda insisted from his first day at spring training that he, once again, was a force.
"I'm the same Michael Pineda," the 25-year-old told reporters more than a few times.
The "same" Pineda refers to the pitcher who in 2011 looked like one of the best young arms in baseball, going 8-5 with a 2.58 ERA his first 17 starts that season with the Mariners.
Shoulder surgery cost Pineda nearly three years but the 6-7 righthander's spring proclamation, initially greeted with skepticism, is proving accurate.
In his Yankees debut, Pineda was terrific over six innings of a 4-0 loss to the Blue Jays in front of 45,446 at Rogers Centre.
Making his first start since Sept. 21, 2011, at Minnesota, Pineda allowed one run and six hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out five, throwing 83 pitches.
He was let down by a still-struggling Yankees offense, which went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10. The offense hasn't produced a home run in its first five games and overall has been stagnant, though leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury stayed hot, collecting three hits a second straight game, as did rookie Yangervis Solarte, who had his third straight mult-hit game.
Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey shut the unit down Saturday afternoon, pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings. The former NL Cy Young Award winner with the Mets allowed five hits and a walk, striking out five. David Phelps allowed two homers in the eighth, turning a 1-0 game into a 4-0 one.
The Yankees had two runners on in the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings but could not come through.Ellsbury struck out with two on in the ninth to end it.
The Blue Jays scored in the second when Adam Lind led off with an opposite-field double to left. After Brett Lawrie grounded out to Pineda on a failed sacrifice bunt attempt, Josh Thole flared an opposite-field single to left to bring in Lind, making it 1-0.
The Yankees nearly tied it in the third. Francisco Cervelli led off the inning with a double to right-center and, after Yangervis Solarte and Dean Anna struck out, Ellsbury, sent a single to center. Third base coach Rob Thomson waved Cervelli around as centerfielder Colby Rasmus came up throwing. The ensuing bang-bang play resulted in plate umpire Dana DeMuth calling Cervelli out and Girardi almost immediately emerging from the dugout, asking Thole, the catcher, was blocking the running late to the plate, part of MLB's new rules to try and cut down on home plate collisions. The call stood, however, and Cervelli was out, though the replay showed his right foot might have hit the plate an instant before the tag, which Girardi did not challenge that aspect of the play.
The Yankees most frustrating inning was the eighth. Ellsbury reached on an infield single against lefty Brett Cecil and Derek Jeter walked. Cecil recovered to strike out Carlos Beltran, get Brian McCann to ground out and strike out Alfonso Soriano on a ball in the dirt, dropping the outfielder to 0-for-16 on the season.
Melky Cabrera's second homer in as many games, a solo shot off Phelps, in the bottom of the eighth made it 2-0 and Jose Bautista's two-run bomb later in the inning made it 4-0.