The Angels found that missing piece by signing right-hander Joel Pineiro to a two-year deal reportedly worth $16 million that became official on Friday after the 31-year-old passed his physical on Thursday.
Pineiro, who went 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA in 32 starts with the Cardinals in 2009, was welcomed to the Angels organization on Friday through a teleconference with his agent Andy Katz, general manager Tony Reagins and manager Mike Scioscia.
"I'm very excited," Pineiro said. "It's a great opportunity. I feel it's the right place for me to be at starting from the front office, to the coaching staff to the players. It's a great organization and a winning organization."
Pineiro is coming off a career year in St. Louis that was backed by a new sinker and excellent control. The right-hander led the Majors with a 2.73 ground-ball/fly-ball ratio and walked just 27 batters in 214 innings to lead baseball with just 1.1 walks allowed per nine innings pitched.
Pineiro's ability to induce ground-ball outs is something that certainly excited Scioscia, who feels Pineiro will benefit from the Angels' solid infield defense.
"I think Joel is a terrific fit on a number of fronts for us," Scioscia said. "First of all, just on a talent level and then his ability to get ground balls and with our infield defense, we have the confidence to make the plays. We think he can play at an extremely high level."
Scioscia also praised his current group of starting pitchers saying, "With Joel in that mix, I think our rotation can hold its own against any rotation in our league."
The question for Pineiro, however, will be if he can duplicate his masterful performance from 2009 after largely struggling for several years before developing his devastating sinker under the tutelage of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan.
Pineiro entered '09 with a career 4.55 ERA and hadn't finished a season with more than 10 wins or an ERA under 4.00 since '03, when he went 16-11 with a 3.78 ERA with the Mariners. In all, the 10-year veteran has an 87-79 career record with a 4.39 ERA in 285 games with the Mariners, Red Sox and Cardinals.
But Pineiro insisted his approach is completely different from past seasons now that his sinker is his pitch of choice and that he expects the 2010 season to be similar to '09 statistically.
"I think I'm just going to be the same pitcher I was last year," Pineiro said. "I think I'm going to be confident and I think the defense will help me a lot. The biggest change was that I started to throw my sinker a lot, but I haven't changed my mechanics or anything. It was just throwing my sinker 95 percent of the time trying to get early outs. Everyone knows I'm not going to strike out 300 hitters."
But even without the cache of being a power pitcher -- Pineiro struck out just 105 batters last season -- he was reportedly looking for a much bigger contract closer to the three-year, $30 million contract Randy Wolf signed with the Brewers earlier in the offseason.
But Pineiro had to settle for a two-year deal with the Angels, with the Mets and Dodgers also reportedly after him.
"It was a little bit of grind this year, to be candid," said Katz , his agent. "But at the end of the day, Joel had some great choices and we're so satisfied this is where he ended up. We're very enthusiastic and exited about this."
Reagins also confirmed the club had been in contact with Pineiro and Katz since the Winter Meetings in December but that the heightened interest from both sides didn't come until this week.
"This process started in the Winter Meetings and it kind of heated up a lot more over the last couple of days," Reagins said. "There was a lot of interest in the marketplace, but we were able to come to an agreement fairly quickly."
Pineiro, who began his career on the West Coast with the Mariners in 2000 as a 21-year-old, cited family reasons for picking the Angels, as he is married with four children and is comfortable with the Southern California area.
"I have four kids of my own and from what I hear from players in the past and from current players is that this is a world-class organization," Pineiro said. "So I'm very excited to be where I'm at right now."