Right-hander Michael Pineda, who will try to complete a Minnesota Twins' three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins on Thursday, has been much improved of late.
Pineda, a 30-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, bolted the New York Yankees as a free agent and signed a two-year contract with the Twins in December 2017.
However, he missed the entire 2018 season as he recovered from elbow surgery followed by a right-knee operation.
Pineda went on the injured list on May 28 of this season due to tendinitis in the same knee. But, in his past eight starts, Pineda is 3-2 with a 2.87 ERA.
That represents tremendous, after Pineda, who struggled to a 6.21 ERA during his first six starts.
"When you have surgery, it takes a long time for the recovery," said Pineda, who is 7-5 overall this season with a 4.30 ERA. "You have to work so hard to be 100 percent for your team."
Pineda, who is 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his only career appearance against the Marlins, led American League starters in 2016 with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
He is no longer that same power pitcher, however. He is averaging 8.1 strikeouts per nine, his lowest figure since 2014.
On Thursday, Pineda will face Marlins rookie right-hander Jordan Yamamoto (4-2, 3.64 ERA).
Yamamoto, a 23-year-old Hawaiian, had never pitched above Double A before making his major league debut on June 12. He was brilliant early, posting a 1.24 ERA in his first five starts.
However, in his past three starts, he has been hit hard, posting a 9.00 ERA.
Even so, Marlins manager Don Mattingly has maintained his faith in Yamamoto.
"His demeanor has been impressive," Mattingly said. "He stays even keel."
Yamamoto's performance the rest of this season could have added importance to the Marlins, who traded three pitchers in two separate deals on Wednesday.
Starter Zac Gallen was shipped to the Arizona Diamondbacks for shortstop prospect Jazz Chisholm. The Marlins also sent relievers Trevor Richards and Nick Anderson to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for major league pitcher Ryne Stanek and highly touted minor league outfielder Jesus Sanchez.
Stanek, 28, is 0-2 with a 3.40 ERA this season, and it's possible he could impact Thursday's game in a bullpen role.
In addition, the Marlins sent away a fourth pitcher, closer Sergio Romo, who was traded to the Twins last Saturday.
"We're trying to make smart decisions," Marlins GM Michael Hill said. "We want to put ourselves in the position to be successful in the short term and the long term."
The Twins, who also added Sam Dyson to their bullpen on Wednesday, beat the Marlins 7-4 on Wednesday, getting a three-run homer by Mitch Garver, a two-run shot by Eddie Rosario and a solo blast from Max Kepler.
Minnesota, which leads the majors in home runs, sits on top of the American League Central by three games over the Cleveland Indians and has won five of its past six games.
Miami, which has the worst record in the National League, battled to the end of Wednesday's loss, getting a ninth-inning grand slam by Brian Anderson before finally being subdued.
--Field Level Media