Michael Pineda was a major league all-star in 2011.

A 22-year-old with a fastball at 97 MPH and a good splitter, the burly righty went 9-10 for my sad-sack Seattle Mariners. (If you read my intro blog yesterday, it only took a day to get a Mariners reference in).

Though he finished 9-10, he had a 3.74 ERA while striking out 173 batters in 171 innings.

In the subsequent offseason, Pineda was traded to the Yankees for catching prospect Jesus Montero. Though some other marginal players were included, Pineda and Montero were the keys. I've tried to forget Hector Noesi entirely.

Montero has been a bust in Seattle. He posted a .260 average in 2012 and hit .208 last season in just 29 games before being injured and suspended in the biogenesis scandal.

Pineda has not thrown a pitch in the major leagues since that 2011 season, tearing his labrum before the 2012 season. He missed all of 2012 and spent 2013 in the minor leagues as a result of the shoulder and poor performance.

As the Yankees pitchers and catchers reported to spring training this past weekend, Pineda believes he is close to regaining his 2011 form. People familiar with the Yankees believe Pineda is the ideal choice to be the fifth starter.

Even after the signing of Masahiro Tanaka and the hopeful rebound of C.C. Sabathia, the Bombers need to solidify the back end of the rotation.

Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova will be there. But If Pineda can regain his 2011 form, he'll be a pleasant surprise for the Yanks and will help improve the rotation instantly.

All the early indications for Pineda are good at least. “I’m happy with what I saw today,” manager Joe Girardi told the New York Daily News. “The ball is coming out of his hand really well. I’m anxious to see him pitch in games.”

To read the full report on Pineda at spring training, continue reading here.