Pitchers and catchers today! YES!!
2009: Alfredo Aceves followed a strong 2008 debut (1-0, 2.40 ERA, 1.167 WHIP) with a terrific 2009 season that was comparable to Ramiro Mendoza’s brilliant 1998 campaign (10-2, 3.25 ERA, 1.235 WHIP in 130 1/3 IP). Used mainly as a reliever in ’09, the right-hander from Mexico offered the Yankees innings length and flexibility with his background as a starter, working more than an inning in 27 of his 42 relief appearances and even making a spot start July 9 against the Twins. Even before Phil Hughes became a standout set-up man, “Ace” served a vital role as part of a bridge to Mariano Rivera, solidifying what may have been the best bullpen in the American League. His low-90s fastball and diving sinker added to the bullpen’s excellent strikeout ability, which led the AL at 8.44 K/9. Aceves at times gave the rest of the bullpen a breather with his multi-inning capability. His outstanding work was crucial in several victories, most notably 3 shutout innings in a May 29 win over Cleveland, holding Tampa Bay scoreless for 2 innings on June 7 before the Yankees scored 3 in the bottom of the 8th for the victory, 3 shutout innings for the win August 30 against Chicago, and 3 sterling innings against Boston in the 2-0, 15-inning classic August 7. Aceves also helped the Yankees by relieving for Joba Chamberlain as the Yankees labored to limit Joba’s innings later in the year.
However, Aceves’s capacity to work multiple innings eventually wore him down, and in late July he acknowledged that he had a sore shoulder. It immediately showed for, while continuing to pitch, Aceves suffered his worst stretch of the season. In 8 appearances between July 25 and August 22, Aceves surrendered 21 hits and 17 runs (all earned), with his ERA swelling from a crisp 2.53 to a more mediocre 4.12 as a result. While he finished strong, Aceves saw little post-season action–though good starting pitching had much to do with that. Aceves fared well against the Twins and Phillies in brief stints, but struggled against the Angels–punctuated by Joe Girardi‘s inexplicably inserting Aceves for an efficient David Robertson in the 11th inning of the Game 3 loss, when Aceves gave up a single to Kendrick and the RBI double to Aybar.
- 2009 Statistics: 10-1 record, 3.54 ERA, 43 appearances (1 start), 1.012 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 1.7 BB/9.
2010: Ace bears watching in 2010, both for what success he will have and, importantly and in relation, what role he will have this season in the bullpen. While capable of pitching multiple innings, Aceves might be better suited for more frequent, shorter stints, especially if Chad Gaudin and/or Sergio Mitre are in the bullpen for long relief work. If Girardi manages Ace’s innings well, the 27-year-old righty may well help maintain a strong Yankees bullpen. Expecting another 10-1 season from him is in all likelihood too much to ask. However, should he stay healthy and exhibit good control, Aceves should have another good season.
- 2010 Prediction: 6-4 record, 3.80 ERA, 56 appearances, 1.234 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9.