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Pineda plans to make decision for fifth starter easy

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Michael Pineda says that he is back to being the pitcher who tantalized scouts as an American League All-Star in 2011. If that's the case, the decision as to who will be the Yankees' fifth starter may be easier than expected.

Pineda threw a 35-pitch bullpen session on Monday at George M. Steinbrenner Field and said that he is pleased by his recovery from an anterior labral tear. Now, after two years of false starts, he expects to throw his first official pitches as a Yankee.

"I'm feeling good. Really good," Pineda said. "I'm throwing the same, mechanics [are] the same. Everything is the same. All [the] pitches are the same. I'm the same Michael Pineda."

"I thought the ball came out really well today," manager Joe Girardi said. "To me, it looked different than what I saw a couple of years ago when he got hurt and was pitching in games. I'm anxious to see him get in some games in the next 12 days or so."

As a rookie in 2011, Pineda went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA in 28 starts for the Mariners before coming to the Yankees in a four-player trade in January 2012. Top catching prospect Jesus Montero headlined the package of players sent to Seattle and has also had difficulty making a big league impact.

Girardi said that Pineda's velocity was around 93 mph or 94 mph last year in the Minors, and Pineda said that he has been working on his conditioning. He showed up overweight two years ago but is back to his listed playing weight, 260 pounds.

Pineda added that he feels "no pressure" and is "happy" about the competition for fifth starter, which also includes David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno.

Girardi said that it is too early to handicap a favorite.

"Obviously, when we traded for [Pineda], we expected him to be in our rotation," Girardi said. "But he went through an injury, he went through significant time off, and that fifth spot is going to have to be earned."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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