The Yankees liked Alfredo Aceves. They found him pitching in Mexico, moved him quickly through the minor league system and got 10 wins out of him in 2009. He was versatile and effective, a nice piece of the pitching staff. But the Yankees didn’t think he was irreplaceable.
When Aceves couldn’t stay healthy in 2010, then hurt himself in an offseason bicycle accident, the Yankees decided they didn’t want to keep Aceves on their 40-man roster. That’s when the Yankees let him go, starting the chain of events that will bring Aceves to Yankee Stadium this weekend as the Red Sox closer. Plenty of fans are still frustrated that Yankees lost him in the first place.
But surely David Phelps is easing some of that frustration.
“He’s thrown the ball exceptionally well since he’s come back (from the minors),” Joe Girardi said. “Really good location of his fastball. Curveball’s been sharp. Slider has been good.”
Phelps and Aceves are an imperfect comparison for several reasons, but Phelps is essentially filling the role that might have belonged to Aceves had Aceves stayed in the Bronx. And Phelps is doing it better. After last night’s win he’s 2-3 with a 2.70 ERA that’s lower than any other Yankees pitcher with more than 40 innings this season. The only Yankees with lower season ERAs are Mariano Rivera, Dave Robertson and Rafael Soriano (and Dewayne Wise).
“When I started the season I was aggressive,” Phelps said. “Then I went through a stretch when I was a little bit tentative and not as aggressive. Now I’m just really focusing on getting strike one. If you can get strike one, you can control the rest of the at-bat a lot easier.”
Phelps is 25 years old, the same age Aceves was when he came to the big leagues for the first time, but he just might have what Aceves lacked in New York: Staying power. Even with the trade deadline approaching, the Yankees might have found something worth keeping in their rookie long man.
“When I was down there (in the minor leagues) I got back on the attack,” Phelps said, “and really got comfortable with my mechanics (because of) just being able to pitch and throw a couple of bullpens and be on a routine. I just feel like I’m confident in all my pitches, and I’m just trusting what Russ puts down.”
Associated Press photo