At the end of Spring Training, the Orioles released Alfredo Aceves and the Yankees scooped in and signed him to a minor league deal. Early Saturday morning, they brought him up from AAA Scranton, officially reuniting themselves with a big piece of their 2009 World Championship run. On Sunday, Aceves impressed everyone with 5.1 shutout innings in relief of the ever-fading CC Sabathia, and now we might have a rotation controversy on our hands.
Don’t worry, I haven’t gone crazy; I don’t think the Yankees would dare remove CC from the rotation (no matter how badly he pitches). That being said, injuries to both Ivan Nova (out for the year) and Michael Pineda (10 game suspension and an upper back strain, out 3-4 weeks) have left the Yankees with two possible holes in their big league rotation. Could Aceves be the guy to fill one of those gaps? The Yankees have tabbed Vidal Nuño as the fifth starter for now, and David Phelps as the temporary replacement for Pineda, but there’s nothing that says someone else couldn’t be the best solution to that problem. Aside from his first start of the year, Nuño hasn’t really been that impressive, and has been unable to get through the fifth inning his last two starts. Phelps, meanwhile, has never been able to nail down a full time rotation job, and has been spotty in relief this season.
Aceves, meanwhile, has been a very good major leaguer in the past. He was originally signed as an amateur free agent out of Mexico by the Blue Jays in 2001, but felt isolated in the Dominican Summer league, deciding to basically forgo his contract and return to Mexico in 2002.a He was there until the Yankees signed him in 2008, in the same package deal that landed them lauded prospect Manny Banuelos. Within six months, he was starting for the New York Yankees. In 2009, he spent most of the year as the long man, going 10-1 with a 3.54 ERA and helping the Yankees win the World Series. In 2010, a balky back cost him most of the season, and the Yankees let him go before 2011.
Aceves signed with the Boston Red Sox that offseason, and he was fairly brilliant again, this time putting together a 10-2 record with a 2.61 ERA. It seemed the Yankees had made a bit of a mistake in letting him go. He was so good, in fact, that the Sox named him closer in at one point during the 2012 season, and he saved 25 games. Unfortunately, he also kind of lost his mind. He lost the closer job when Andrew Bailey returned from injury, and he didn’t take it well. He acted out, and the Sox suspended him for three games. Later in the year, he showed up manager Bobby Valentine, refusing to hand him the ball when Bobby V came out to remove Aceves from a game, and then taking a “strange” route off the mound on his way out.b I mean, I know Bobby Valentine is awful, but you can’t do that stuff. Continuing the role of crazy man, he was intimately involved in a giant brawl between Mexico and Canada in the following spring’s World Baseball Classic. Former big leaguer Larry Walker, who coaches for Canada, said that, while he was restraining Aceves during the melee, he “thought I saw Satan in his [Aceves’] eyes.”c
Basically, he went off the deep end for a while and, at the still relatively young age of 32, Aceves is basically trying to resurrect a career that seemed just about dead in April. Instead of completely imploding when the Orioles released him, he went down to Scranton and pitched very well, putting up a 1.98 ERA in 13.2 innings as a starter and reliever. The Yankees long man role has been a revolving door of unripened rookies and long shot veteran types, and they have used 14 relievers overall this season. While guys like Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton are really starting to establish themselves as solid pitchers behind closer David Robertson, there’s still a lot of turmoil in the pen. Aceves could solidify that long man role. He could even supplant Nuño or Phelps in the rotation if he keeps pitching like he did Sunday.
I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what Aceves can offer the second time around.
Featured image courtesy of: William Perlman-The Star-Ledger
- http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/sports/baseball/09aceves.html?_r=3&ref=baseball& (back)
- http://blog.masslive.com/redsoxmonster/2012/09/red_sox_must_make_a_decision_a.html (back)
- http://espn.go.com/mlb/worldclassic2013/story/_/id/9035253/canada-mexico-brawl-breaks-wbc-game-no-punishments-forthcoming (back)
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