How do I put this politely? Umm, Joel Pineiro, he... what's the word? Sucks... hard. Like, if he sucked any more he'd be a vacuum or Scott Kazmir, neither of which are good things.
The wheels didn't really start to fall off for him until a few weeks ago after he spent most of the season walking the tightrope of allowing far too many hits while missing almost no bats yet somehow suppressing runs from scoring (translation, being really lucky), so the warning signs were certainly there. It wasn't until that fateful mid-July day in Oakland that he channeled his inner-Vin Mazzaro and coughed up eight runs while getting just one out before getting yanked and he just hasn't been the same since. But, of course, you know this already since Pineiro has become a lightning rod for criticism since that day.
Now, after his fourth consecutive awful outing, which came on the heels of Mike Scioscia publicly questioning Joel's performance and ability, the time has come to start seriously exploring options for moving on from Pineiro.
Replacing a veteran pitcher in the rotation right in the middle of a tight playoff race is less than ideal, but in a bizarre twist of serendipity, the Angels might get a chance to audition Joel's replacement before actually kicking him to the curb first.
Thanks to Jered Weaver buzzing Alex Avila's tower the other day, the Angels are going to have to call someone up from their farm system to make a spot start while Weaver serves his suspension (sorry, Jered, the only way your appeal gets approved is if the Casey Anthony jury is involved). Should said spot starter impress, then there is a good chance he'll get to stick around as Pineiro's replacement. One small problem, selecting that spot starter won't be easy since the Angel farm system isn't exactly ripe with talent in the upper levels as we found out when the Halos failed to make any deadline deals.
The first option some will suggest is Matt Palmer since "he just wins." Those people should be taken out behind the shed and beaten over the head with the entire unabridged work of Bill James. Palmer is terrible and has no business returning to the majors, especially with his 7.30 ERA in Salt Lake.
Up next, we have the more logical choice of Trevor Bell. He's spent most of the year doing a mediocre job as a mop up man for the Angels, but he has spent the last few weeks in Utah getting stretched out to be a starter again. Hmm, it is almost like the Angels knew they might need him or something? Weird. Bell will certainly do in a pinch, but seeing how he has been racking up frequent flyer miles between Anaheim and Salt Lake since 2009, it remains to be seen whether or not he actually has what it takes to stick in the majors permanently and, if so, whether or not he is best suited to be a reliever or a starter. One point in his favor is that he has never really gotten a lengthy look in the rotation, so maybe if the Angels quit jerking him around all the time, he might prove to be an actual major leaguer, probably not a good one, but good enough to serve as a fifth starter.
The only other option in Triple-A is recently signed Jerome Williams, who was a top prospect with the Giants once upon a time. He's performed well in nine games for the Bees so far so the Halos might want to give him a look to see if he might not be their version of Ryan Vogelsong. It seems highly unlikely that would work out, but seeing how they think letting Horacio Ramirez be a part of their bullpen is a good idea, I can't imagine they'd be against giving Williams a whirl.
If the team really wants to swing for the fences, they could call up top prospect Garrett Richards, a notion popular amongst the masses. He's putting up great numbers in Double-A, though he has done most of his damage at home in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark. The kid does have wonderful stuff and profiles as the kind of guy who could survive skipping a level, like Tyler Chatwoood successfully did. All the other alternatives to Pineiro are nothing more than back-of-the-rotation filler, but Richards has the potential to be something much more and possibly even a late-season jolt that could push them over the top in the AL West race. The only reason I fear calling up Richards for more than one spot start is that the pressure of a pennant race seems like a pretty harsh environment to subject a kid to upon his arrival in the bigs. That kind of pressure can cripple a youngster's development if things go poorly and Richards is too valuable a commodity to risk him like that.
What would I do? Thanks for asking, how nice of you. My vote would be to give Richards that one spot start to see just how well his stuff plays in the majors. If he gets bombed, so be it. He can survive that and then just head back to the minors. If he does pitch well though, let him stick around for a while and have Pineiro work on his issues out of the bullpen.
Otherwise, I'm afraid that the Angels' next best option might be to just swallow hard and let Joel stay in the rotation while crossing their fingers that he magically solves his problems. I don't like it any more than you do, but such a strategy probably has just as much of a chance at working as allowing Trevor Bell or any of the other flotsam and jetsam from the Triple-A team to take over for Joel. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know, even if that devil you know is a sinkerballer that can't stop giving up home runs.