Tigers’ Big Mike hits 10 years of MLB service: Why it really is a big deal.

MINNEAPOLIS — There weren’t many fans in the stands when the Detroit Tigers opened a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins on a frosty Tuesday night.

But the Twins gave Pineda a little present that probably left him warm inside. A video tribute played before the match, acknowledging Pineda’s four seasons with the club.

Pineda still has many fans here, and Big Mike has equally warm memories.

“I have very good friends here. My coaches and my manager Rocco (Baldelli) were great guys. I learned a lot from them,” Pineda said.

His return to Target Field comes at an important time in his career. When Pineda takes the mound Thursday night, he will reach nine years and 172 days on an active roster for a Major League team.

In MLB math, that counts as 10 years of major league service time.

It’s really a big problem in the industry.

On the one hand, it fully endows him with an extremely generous pension plan, which is certainly a great benefit, but not essential for someone who has earned more than $50 million in his professional career.

Tigers pitcher Michael Pineda is honored before the game at Target Field in Minneapolis on April 26, 2022. Pineda spent four seasons with the Minnesota Twins before signing with the Tigers ahead of the 2021 season. (Photo by Evan Woodbery, MLive)

Beyond that, the 10-year term is a mark of respect. You’ve heard the saying: it’s really hard to reach the major leagues; it is even harder to stay. It’s true.

“You have to be good for a long time,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “It’s something that everyone notices with us. Everyone in the league respects her and we honor her accordingly. We’ll make a big deal out of it with him, as we’ve done with others who have reached that deadline.

Pineda, 33, hasn’t had a perfect storybook career arc. But few players do. He was once an elite prospect for the Seattle Mariners and among the top rookie pitchers in all of baseball in 2011.

He was traded to the New York Yankees with huge expectations, but due to a series of injuries, Pinda didn’t pitch a game for them until 2014. When healthy, he was pretty good for the Yankees, maybe better than he ever got credit. for.

Pineda suffered another serious injury late in the 2017 season and hit free agency right after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He signed with the Twins that winter, knowing he couldn’t pitch with them in 2018.

He continued to struggle with injuries and would have registered the service mark of 10 years earlier had it not been for one. 60-game suspension due to positive doping test for a substance Pineda used to control his weight.

Pineda pitched well for the Twins in 2021 and many thought he would be back. But the Twins probably shunned him for the reason other teams did for the season: his age and injury history.

The Tigers signed him for one year at $5.5 million. It will be a good deal if he stays healthy and meets his career standards.

While Pineda garnered more media attention in New York, he clearly enjoyed his time in the relatively calmer Minnesota setting.

He was greeted by several teammates and had an emotional on-field reunion with his former pitching coach ahead of Tuesday’s game.

Pineda gave 5-foot-7 Wes Johnson a huge hug in the outfield, literally lifting him off his feet. The scene was impossible to ignore: Big Mike is 6-foot-8 and weighs around 300 pounds.

When asked by a reporter if he knew about his impending birthday, Pineda politely refrained from rolling his eyes. Of course he was.

“It’s amazing. I feel so blessed and so excited,” he said. “When you sign with a professional team, you have a goal. Your goal is to reach the major leagues. When you hit 10, you say, “Thank God I made it.”

Neal T. Doss