BY MARK FEINSAND
Michael Pineda will try to shut down his former team, the Mariners, and out-duel his old teammate, Felix Hernandez, who is perhaps the best pitcher in baseball.
OAKLAND — It’s been more than three years since the Mariners traded Michael Pineda to the Yankees. Monday, Seattle will get its first look at the big righthander in another uniform.
Pineda will start Monday’s series-opener at Safeco Field, the ballpark he called home during his rookie season before the Mariners dealt him and Jose Campos to the Yankees for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.
“It’s going to be nice,” Pineda said. “I’ve never gone back to Seattle, so I’m happy about this moment. I had a great year there in 2011 and I liked everything there.”
Joe Girardi hopes Pineda doesn’t get too excited for his first career start against the Mariners, something the manager often worries about when one of his players returns to face their former team.
“I’ve always worried about people’s emotions in those situations a little bit,” Girardi said. “Players, I don’t necessarily think they take it personally, but you always want to do better against your old team, I don’t care where you are.”
Pineda enjoyed success at Safeco Field, going 5-4 with a 2.92 ERA in 12 home starts in 2011.
“It’s a nice ballpark,” Pineda said. “Especially for pitchers.”
Pineda’s opponent will be Felix Hernandez, Seattle’s Cy Young-winning ace. Hernandez and Pineda pitched together for one year, both making the American League All-Star team.
“He’s the King,” Pineda said “He’s a great pitcher and I love to see him. I had a great time when I was there, seeing Felix Hernandez pitching. He’s great. He’s unbelievable on the mound.”
Hernandez and Pineda didn’t talk much pitching during their time together, but the Mariners’ five-time All-Star helped teach Pineda about life as a big-leaguer.
“I learned a lot of things that had to do with being here in the major leagues,” Pineda said. “Dressing, how to take the bus, checking the board; little things that I needed, he explained them to me. He showed me like how to take a taxi to go to the field, where is the gate for players to come in. It’s a little thing, but it was very important for me because I didn’t know.”
What does Pineda think about facing his accomplished former teammate?
“It’s going to be a great game,” Pineda said. “I want to win it.”