It's been a long time since Michael Pineda threw in a Major League regular-season game. Two years, six months, two weeks and a day, to be exact.
"I remember like it's yesterday. I remember my last game in Seattle, when the season was over," said the New York Yankees pitcher of his last big league start, which came on Sept. 21, 2011, back when he was with the Mariners. He'll take the hill this afternoon at Rogers Centre for a 1:07 ET start against the hometown Blue Jays. "I know it's two years, but the time has gone quick."
After sustaining a shoulder injury during Spring Training in 2012, Pineda began walking the long road to recovery, which forced him to miss the entire 2012 season and part of the '13 campaign. He returned in July to make 10 starts in the Minors before arriving at camp set on cracking the Yankees' rotation.
Pineda, 25, who came to the Yankees after the 2011 season by way of a trade that sent catcher Jesus Montero to the Mariners, said his time away from the Majors gave him the opportunity to refine his approach, and he's a better pitcher for it.
"Yeah. That's what I'm feeling," he said. "Now I've learned a little more, pitching in the game, you know? Now I have better pitches. My slider was always good, but now it's better. My changeup is good right now. It's better than before."
An imposing 6-foot-7, 265 pounds, Pineda is 1-0 in three career appearances against the Blue Jays. His last start against Toronto was Aug. 15, 2011. His counterpart in Toronto will be Blue Jays staff ace R.A. Dickey, who's coming off a loss in the season opener against the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday.
Dickey's knuckleball wouldn't cooperate in his first outing. The veteran allowed six runs through five innings in a 9-2 Rays win. He also tied a career high with six walks, the most he's issued since Sept. 17, 2011, against the Braves.
"I just lost the feel of it there for a little bit," said the 2012 National League Cy Young winner. "I was struggling to find a release point and did a poor, poor, job of making the in-game adjustments that I needed to make. I think they scored five of their six runs with two outs, so I was one pitch away in almost every inning from getting out of the jam. Just couldn't execute that pitch."
Dickey was 2-2 in four starts against the Yankees last season, both of his wins coming on home turf.
He said in order to be effective, he needs to increase the velocity of his knuckleball.
"I've been working so hard in the spring to get it up, and I felt like I had it at that place," he said. "[On Monday] I went to the well and it wasn't there. I'm used to seeing some 80s, 81s, 79s, and I don't know if I had any."
Blue Jays: Janssen, Reyes nearing rehab assignments
Injured Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen (lower back strain) and shortstop Jose Reyes (strained left hamstring) could be headed for rehab assignment by the middle of next week, following the team's home series against the Houston Astros, Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Friday.
Janssen cannot come off the disabled list until April 13, while shortstop Reyes is eligible to be activated April 16.
"I just spoke to both of them today," Anthopoulos said prior to Friday night's game. "They're both feeling good, hopefully by the end of the homestand they'll both go on a rehab assignment and then be back shortly thereafter. They should be back very soon."
Yankees: Teixeira sustains hamstring injury
First baseman Mark Teixeira left Friday's game in the bottom of the second after he strained his right hamstring trying to make a play on a ball hit down the line.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said if the 33-year-old isn't feeling better by Monday, he'll likely go for medical testing. A wrist injury limited Teixeira to 15 games in 2013.
"It kind of leaves you scrambling a little bit, wondering why it happens," said Girardi following his team's 7-3 victory Friday night.
Kelly Johnson took over at first base of the remainder of the game. He's expected to log more time there as long as Teixeira is out of the lineup.
• Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka allowed a home run to the first batter he faced in his Major League debut on Friday, Blue Jays leadoff man Melky Cabrera. With his first-inning homer, Cabrera extended his hitting streak against the Yankees to 14 games.
• With a pair of RBIs, Jays shortstop Jonathan Diaz has knocked in three runs in as many games since being called up from AAA Buffalo.
• Right-handed pitcher Jeremy Jeffress was designated for assignment late Friday night. Chad Jenkins will be promoted from Triple-A Buffalo prior to this afternoon's game.
Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.