Aceves making progress, but back will remain a concern

Fan Confidence Poll: May 24th, 2010
Link Dump: Girardi, Giambi, Russo, Catchers
Photo credit: Jim Mone/AP

For about a week the Yankees’ bullpen appeared a shambles. Nearly every reliever, from the mop-up guys to the setup men to the closer, had a hand in blowing a game. That made many of us wonder if Al Aceves would make his way back anytime soon. Diagnosed with a bulging disc in his back and placed on the disabled list retroactive to May 9. He’s eligible to return at any time now, but the Yankees will proceed with caution. There’s no reason to rush a player with back problems.

Last week, pining for Aceves’s presence in the bullpen, I wondered if his back had been bothering him all season. He had, after all, felt some pain towards the end of spring training, and the Yankees used him sparingly in the season’s first month. On Saturday I asked Aceves about his back, and he said that yes, it had bothered him and had affected his stuff. That’s a good sign, really, because it helps explain the diminished velocity on his cutter. It might also help explain his walking four batters in just 12 innings after displaying excellent control in 2009.

Otherwise, though, we shouldn’t read too much into Aceves’s numbers. For instance, his low strikeout rate might have something to do with his back, but he thinks it’s more the situations he has faced than his back affecting his strikeout stuff.

“I’m not thinking of striking out guys,” he said. Given the situations in which he has entered, though, he hasn’t quite needed the strike out. He has entered five games with runners in base, and none of them have come with a runner on third. In only two was there a runner on second, and in one of those situations there were two outs, making a strikeout less necessary. Pitching to contact might have been the best strategy there, especially for a player nursing a balky back.

He seemed optimistic that he’d return in short order, noting that it was his third straight day playing catch. As the Yankees took batting practice, Aceves stood on the left field foul line and had a catch, though I couldn’t tell the force with which he was throwing. He also mentioned that he would be headed to the minors for a rehab assignment, and about 15 minutes later Joe Girardi confirmed that Aceves would head to Tampa on Monday. Look for him in tonight’s DotF.

Back problems for baseball players can be chronic conditions that affect them throughout their careers, even after an off-season of rest. Aceves experienced back problems last July and they cropped up again this spring, despite three-plus months of rest. The Yankees obviously hope that rest and treatment will help keep Aceves healthy the rest of the year, but that’s no guarantee. He seems nothing but optimistic, saying treatment has made his back feel great. That’s a positive sign, of course, but with a back problem you just never know.

We should get a better idea this week of when he can rejoin the team. The team will certainly benefit from his presence in the bullpen.

Fan Confidence Poll: May 24th, 2010
Link Dump: Girardi, Giambi, Russo, Catchers
  • forensicnucchem

    I wonder if it might still be a few days till he’s actually in games. On the Joe Girardi Show yesterday (taped before yesterday’s game I believe), Girardi said he’s still just throwing off flat ground so far (if I remember correctly). I would think they’d want him to do a BP session off the mound once or twice before throwing him in a game, but that’s just my guess. He said he’s still a little ways away. I wish I hadn’t deleted it a couple hours ago so I could get the actual quotes again (though it’s replayed several times during today).

    Sorry if I didn’t get everything exactly right.

  • mike c

    i think mitre has earned a regular spot in the BP right now. he’s been the most consistent out of all of the relievers and he might actually be a better option than aceves at the moment, especially coming off the injury

  • Rose

    Dana Eveland was just DFA’d. What are the odds they take a peek at him?

    He pitched well this year before meeting the Red Sox…since then he hasn’t been able to revert back to the success though.

    Maybe Eiland can work with him or something. Couldn’t hurt.

    • forensicnucchem

      Before meeting the Red Sox he faced the powerhouse offenses of Baltimore, Chicago, and Kansas City.

      No thanks.

      • pat

        Sounds like the Rays’ April/May schedule.

      • Jammy Jammers

        Hughes managed to reinvigorate two dead offenses: Mets and Red Sox.

  • bonestock94

    Gaudin was also DFA’d last week…

    • Mike

      If Gaudin just got DFA’d and the same just happened with Bruney then that means its not to early for us to do the same with Park.

  • Jamal G.

    On Saturday I asked Aceves about his back …

    Eminem translation: “I’m kind of a big deal.”

    • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

      you beat me by a mere amount of seconds

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Joe was very confident, in my mind. “Hey, Mexican Gangster, how’s the back feeling, muchaco?

      • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

        he even dropped an “esse”

  • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

    “On Saturday I asked Aceves about his back”

    you guys are really making it big….im so proud…and jealous…

  • bexarama

    I was gonna say, hey this is a good article and then I saw that YOU TALKED TO ACEVES. THAT IS REALLY COOL.

  • Slu

    It will be good to have Aceves back, but I don’t think it is wise to think the return of Aceves is the magic bullet that is going to make the bullpen alright again. I don’t think it is fair to put that much pressure on him. Yeah, it will be nice to hopefully get Logan off the team, but who knows how effective Aceves will be when he gets back? And they still need CHoP to pitch better. It certainly should help, but I don’t think the return of Aceves is the cure all for the bullpen.

    • Mike

      The one thing I do think it help is that a bad bullpen arm will be kicked out to make room for Aceves. Its between logan and Park of who is going to go. Say what you want about logan walking a lot of guys and not getting a lot of lefties out but Park has been down rigth dreadful. All the Yankee fans who thought bringing Park in was a good move now need to just shut up. This guy has been nothing but batting practice for our opponents. This will continue to be as long as Cashman and Girardi continue to waste a bullpen spot on a mop-up guy instead of a young reliever from our system who could actually use those innings to build up some confidence in the Majors.