Injury Updates: Chavez and … Marte?

Via Erik Boland and Chad Jennings, we’ve got a pair of quick injury updates for you. Eric Chavez experienced spasms in his calf yesterday, but he says it’s fine. He took batting practice today and will do a full set of fielding drills tomorrow, though Joe Girardi told him they’re going to hold him out of games until Friday. I know Chavez has been brittle over the last few years, but I wouldn’t worry about calf spasms. No big deal.

Meanwhile, the forgotten man Damaso Marte was in the clubhouse this morning and said his surgically repaired shoulder is doing well. He expects to start working out and throwing soon, and doctors have told him that there’s a chance he’ll be ready to return by the All-Star break. I still have zero expectations of Marte making it back healthy this season, but hey, good news is better than bad news.

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GM Meetings Notes: Jeter, Mo, Hall, Marte

"Then Derek said 'I want a G6,' and I was like 'lol whatevs'." (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The first official day of the GM Meetings has come to a close, at least in theory. Like I said on Monday, the hot stove is a 24/7 business, so who knows what could happen overnight. Obviously, the big news from Tuesday involved Dan Uggla, who was dealt to the Braves for the low, low price of (All Star) Omar Infante and former Yankee prospect Mike Dunn. I know they’re just getting one year of Uggla before free agency, but damn. You mean someone else wouldn’t top that?

Anyway, let’s round up today’s miscellaneous items, with the source in parenthesis again…

  • “Things are going well right now,” said Hal Steinbrenner (Chad Jennings). He acknowledged talking to Derek Jeter‘s agent “a couple of times” since last week’s meeting in Tampa, but otherwise there’s not much going on.
  • Meanwhile, Jon Heyman hears that the Yankees will bid at least three years to keep Jeter. Three years? Fine. At least three years? I don’t like where that’s going.
  • The Yankees still have no idea if Mariano Rivera is looking for a one or two-year deal, but they’re expecting it to be the latter (Buster Olney).
  • Bill Hall is on the list of free agents the team is interested in, and they have a bit of a connection: Hall works out with Yanks’ hitting coach Kevin Long during the offseason (Ken Rosenthal). I’m not much of a Hall fan, mostly because the idea of multi-million dollar utility players with multi-year contracts strikes me as utter lunacy.
  • The Yankees did in fact contact the Diamondbacks about trading for Justin Upton, but it was nothing more than due diligence (Marc Carig).
  • “I’ve got a small player move that I’m working on that might get done at some point this week,” said Cashman (LoHud). “But it’s small.” Let the speculation begin. I hope it’s Randy Choate.
  • They won’t consider releasing Damaso Marte to free up a 40-man roster spot even though they expect him to miss the entire 2011 season. Cashman doesn’t believe the team has a roster crunch when it comes to protecting players from the Rule 5 Draft.
  • Cash on the pitching coach situation (Marc Carig): “This is a scenario where there isn’t an obvious, without a doubt, in-house candidate.”
  • In somewhat surprising news, Brian Cashman said that Al Aceves might have been healthy enough to pitch in the World Series if they’d gotten there (LoHud). The Mexican Gangster last pitched on May 8th and suffered a setback as recently as early-September. Cash said he’s “hopeful” going forward, presumably talking about Ace’s ability to stay healthy. That’s basically all you can do, back issues are tricky.

And finally, former Yankee GM Bob Watson announced that he will retire at the end of the 2011 season. Watson is currently MLB’s VP of Rules & On-Field Operations, meaning he disciplines players and what not, but he ran the Yankees’ ship from in 1996 and 1997, bridging the gap between Gene Michael and Cashman. He was a helluva player before that, hitting .295/.364/.447 with 184 homers in a career that spanned from 1966 to 1984. Watson played mostly for the Astros, but he also had stints with the Red Sox, Yankees, and Braves. Congrats on the retirement, Bob.

What Went Wrong: Aceves & Marte

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.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Al Aceves

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.

(AP Photo/John Froschauer)

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.

(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Damaso Marte

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.

Marte had shoulder surgery, out until after 2011 All Star break

Via Erik Boland, lefty reliever Damaso Marte underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder last Friday, and won’t begin to throw again until after the 2011 All Star break. Marte was afraid he’d never be able to pitch again, so he took this as good news. For all intents and purposes, consider him out next season. He won’t start throwing until after the break, nevermind facing batters and stuff.

Damaso is under contract for under $4M next season, then the Yanks will buy out his 2012 option (another $4M) for $250,000. Since signing his regrettable three-year, $12M contract after the 2008 season, Marte has thrown just 31 innings with a 6.39 ERA. The ERA’s skewed by the ass kickin’ he took before going on the disabled list in 2009, though. He did hold lefties to a .136/.205/.242 batting line over the last two seasons (73 plate appearances), which is what he’s supposed to do. We’ll always have the 2009 playoffs, Damaso.

Aceves, Marte done for the year

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.