Archive for Alfredo Aceves
The 2009 Yankees were a club that relied heavily on its bullpen, and for the most part to great success. Chien-Ming Wang was horrific before being sidelined with a shoulder issue, Joba Chamberlain was perpetually bumping up against some kind of limit, and the fifth starter conglomerate of Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin were hardly reliable. The bullpen picked up the slack, and the Yanks were able to ride that bullpen right to a World Championship.
The bullpen was again a strength in 2010, especially in the second half, but two key contributors from the previous year were essentially non-factors after the first few weeks of the season, and the Yankees suffered because of it.
Maybe not the most valuable member of the 2009 bullpen, Aceves was certainly the most versatile and relied upon. His 80.2 relief innings were by far the most on the team (Mariano Rivera was second at 66.1 IP) and he pitched in every possible role. Long-relief, righty specialist, middle relief, setup man, four-inning closer, you name it and Aceves did in the 2009. The Yankees penciled Ace in for a similar role this season, but it was not meant to be.
The Mexican Gangster missed the end of Spring Training with a stiff lower back, a sign of things to come. He was healthy enough to crack the team’s Opening Day roster, and proved his value in the second game of the season, firing two perfect innings in a tie game against the Red Sox in Fenway Park on just 23 pitches. He was used somewhat sparingly through April and early May, perhaps held back because of lingering issues with his back that we didn’t know about, but when he pitched he was pretty good: nine games, eleven innings, and just four earned runs allowed, all of which came within his first three outings of the season. The only concern was his lack of strikeouts (just one compared to four walks), but that early in the season no one thought much of it.
The Yankees were again in Fenway on May 8th when a rain delay forced starter CC Sabathia from the game. Aceves was brought in to pick up the slack, his third appearance in five days, and after recording the final out in the fifth, he went back out for the sixth. Kevin Youkilis led off the frame with a single, and two batters later J.D. Drew singled as well. Boston was mounting a mini-rally with the Yanks up by three. Jeremy Hermida stepped to the plate with men on the corners and two outs, and one pitch later Aceves was done for the season.
A first pitch curveball to Hermida dropped in for a strike, but it also dropped Aceves to the ground. Okay, not really, he never went down. But he did buckle at the waist and limp off the mound in a way that made you think it was a hamstring or quad or something like that. Aceves immediately left the game with what turned out to be the same thing that hampered him in March: a stiff lower back. Three days later he was placed on the disabled list with a bulging disc, and two weeks after that he reaggravated the injury while rehabbing in Tampa. Aceves had a few epidurals throughout the summer but nothing worked, and he was eventually shut down for the year after re-injuring himself in a minor league rehab start.
The Yankees were never able to replace Aceves in that jack-of-all-trades role, instead relying on several pitchers to pick up the slack. Gaudin and Mitre were given opportunities to do it, but they just couldn’t replicate the Gangster’s success. The Yankees had a solid setup crew for the seventh and eighth innings, but the gap between them and the starter was largely a revolving door all season.
Marte’s absence wasn’t as damning as Aceves’, nor was it as unexpected. After all, he did miss a huge chunk of the 2009 season with a shoulder issue before returning for that brilliant playoff run. The 35-year-old lefty specialist not only managed to stay on the field into July this season, he was also pretty effective. His overall numbers (4.08 ERA with a dozen strikeouts and eleven walks in 17.2 IP spread across 30 appearances) don’t really tell the story given the nature of his job. Marte faced 45 lefty batters in 2010 and just nine reached base. They hit just .146/.200/.268 against him, which works out to a .227 wOBA. He did a fine job neutralizing lefthanders, exactly what he’s supposed to do.
Marte pitched a scoreless inning in Oakland on July 7th, but that was the last time we’d see him this season. He was placed on the disabled list the very next day with shoulder inflammation, an issue that just kept lingering all summer. The Yankees eventually ruled him out for the season in early September, and he had surgery to repair a torn labrum just last week. Damaso won’t return until after the 2011 All Star break at the very earliest.
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The Yankee bullpen managed to survive the injuries to Aceves and Marte, but there’s no denying they would have been a better team with those two healthy and performing like they’re capable of. We already know that Marte is basically a no-go next season, but Aceves’ status is still up in the air. Given the nature of back injuries, it’s wise to expect nothing from him in 2011 and treat whatever he gives the team as a bonus.
For the last few weeks, we’ve heard rumblings of some discouraging news on the injury front, and this morning, Joe Girardi confirmed the dire diagnoses: Neither Alfredo Aceves (back) nor Damaso Marte (shoulder) will return to the Yankees’ bullpen this year. Marte, out since July and still under contract for next year, could need surgery, and Aceves, who threw just 12 innings before a disc problem shelved him in May, is still under team control. For the sake of depth and with memories of 2009 dancing through our heads, it’s a shame that these two pitchers aren’t coming back, but with Boone Logan‘s emergence and the solid, if not spectacular, work out of the pen lately, the team has the arms to cover these two injuries.
Update (7:50pm): Yep, he’s back in New York to see the doc about his back. Not good.
6:19pm: Via Mike Ashmore, Al Aceves has been scratched form his rehab outing with Double-A Trenton tonight and has instead returned to New York. It’s possible that he’s going to have his back re-examined, which is what’s had him on the shelf basically all season. Aceves’ rehab schedule hasn’t been going very well – 11.2 IP, 14 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 6 BB, 11 K with various minor league affiliates – so this news isn’t terribly surprising. Like I’ve been saying, whatever the Yanks get out of Aceves this season is a bonus, and it’s entirely possible he contributes nothing the rest of the way.
Shortly before the game, work leaked out that Alfredo Aceves was alive and well and in the Yankee clubhouse. I had fleeting thoughts that he would be activated after a lengthy stint on the DL due to back problems, and we would be saved more appearances by Chad Gaudin (or Sergio Mitre). The Yankees, however, have different plans. As MLB.com’s Tim Britton reported, Brian Cashman is not quite ready to activate Aceves yet, and the team hopes to have him make at least one more rehab start and possibly two. “He’s a guy that’s just knocking out the rust,” Cashman said before the game. “The belief is he’d benefit and therefore we’d benefit from him getting a few more outings.”
So far, in 5 innings for AAA Scranton and AA Trenton, Aceves, who may still need surgery this winter, has looked sharp. He’s allowed a run on one hit while striking out six. Although Aceves may be ready to go, the Yankees are probably trying to stretch out his rehab to maintain some roster flexibility. By holding him back until September 1, the Yankees can activate Aceves without having to sacrifice Gaudin’s or Mitre’s spot on the Major League. Since Aceves’ back appears to be a ticking time bomb, keeping those two sacrificial lambs around gives the Yanks some depth during the pennant drive.
News of Andy Pettitte‘s rehab setback scared us all to hell on Friday, but the good news is that his injured groin felt a-okay when he met the team in Kansas City yesterday. He expected to be sore the day after throwing his simulated game, but it looks like he lucked out. There is no firm plan in place to restart Pettitte’s rehab right now, but the team is going to very careful as you could expect. He’s going to play catch early next week, and if that goes well he’ll progress to a bullpen session and/or a simulated game and then hopefully a rehab start. This whole thing set him back about a week or so, from the looks of it.
As for Al Aceves, who threw two fine innings with Double-A Trenton on Friday, he’ll make another rehab start with the Thunder on Tuesday and throw three innings or 30 pitches. Joe Girardi indicated that the team isn’t so concerned with stretching him out to 50 pitches or whatever, but they do want to see him pitch on “short rest,” as in just a day or two. After all the setbacks, it’s been so far, so good with Ace’s rehab. Keep your fingers crossed.
At long last, it sounds like two key members of the pitching staff are close to returning. Al Aceves, out since May with a lingering back issue, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session tomorrow, and if that goes well he will make his first rehab appearance on Tuesday. It’ll be his first game action since hitting the disabled list. I suspect the Yanks will be extra careful given the nature of Aceves’ injury, so he could still be two full weeks away from returning. Either way, that’s the best news we’ve gotten on his condition in weeks.
Meanwhile, Andy Pettitte went ahead and did the bullpen thing today. The braintrust will sit down tomorrow and determine the next step. The initial diagnosis called for four or five weeks on the shelf, and right now he’s on track to return just shy of that if he makes two rehab starts. Good news all around, can’t wait to have them both back.
As Andy Pettitte works his way back from a strained groin, the left-hander told the Associated Press yesterday that he is “feeling good.” As part of his rehab, he went through running and agility drills and made approximately 90 throws. He has been out since July 18 and hopes to make a quick return to the mound. Dustin Moseley will start in his place tomorrow.
In other injury news, Al Aceves is ready to take the next step in his return from a back injury. After throwing a bullpen session yesterday, Aceves will either throw live batting practice later this week or head out on a rehab assignment. Anything they get out of the Mexican Gangster this year will be gravy and could be a huge boost to the team’s beleaguered bullpen as well.
Earlier today we learned that Damaso Marte had to be placed on the disabled list with a bout of shoulder tendinitis and then A.J. Burnett left his start with lacerations on his right hand. While those two are only the latest in a slew of injured Yankees, we have some updates on the guys working their ways back to the Bronx.
Sergio Mitre threw a side session this afternoon after making a rehab start for Triple-A Scranton on Thursday. He will return to the team for the start of the Angels’ series on Tuesday. You have to figure that’s the end of the line for one of Chad Ho Moseley trio, and after today’s outing, Moseley may have thrown his final pitches for the Yanks. They should have traded him before he could opt out when his stock was at a high.
Two other key cogs aren’t close to returning. After suffering yet another setback, Alfredo Aceves will begin a throwing program this weekend by tossing off flat ground. With some major back problems plaguing him, Aceves isn’t coming back to help the bullpen anytime soon, and anything the Yanks get out of him this season is a bonus. He may have to explore surgery after the season is over.
As for Nick Johnson, he has restarted his rehab after feeling pain in his wrist earlier this month. His new plan involves “aggressive wrist exercises,” but he is still a few weeks away from true baseball activities such as swinging a bat. Like Aceves, anything they get out of Johnson the rest of the season is gravy.
Feel free to use this update as tonight’s open thread. We’ll be back later with Down on the Farm and the recap of this afternoon’s Rays-Yanks affair.
Via Bryan Hoch, sorely missed reliever Al Aceves had a setback while throwing his bullpen session in Tampa today. He’s heading back to New York for even more tests. The epidurals are obviously not doing the trick, so it’s looking more and more likely that Ace will need to have surgery to fix that bulging disc in his back. Shame, getting him back and healthy was the best bullpen help the Yankees could have hoped for in the second half.
In what I am sure is completely related news, Romulo Sanchez was scratched from his start for Triple-A Scranton tonight, and has been moved to the bullpen to prepare him for his future as a big league reliever. Jason Hirsh takes his spot in SWB’s rotation. If it’s just a coincidence that the Romulo news broke right after the Aceves news, then that’s one hell of a coincidence.