One after another — Brett Gardner, then CC Sabathia, then Derek Jeter — long-time Yankees came into the clubhouse this morning, saw Alfredo Aceves and went to his locker for a laugh and a hug. Guys who have been here for a few years certainly remember him, and when I told one long-time Yankees player this spring that the team had signed Aceves to a minor league deal, the player immediately said that it was just a matter of time before Aceves would be on the big league roster.
It took a month, but here he is.
“I was a Yankee (in the past),” Aceves said. “And when I heard that they wanted to sign me again, I was pretty excited and happy.”
After opening the season with three pitchers who could be considered long relievers, the Yankees have since gone through a series of long men. The latest turn of the revolving door as sent out Chris Leroux — he was designated for assignment after last night’s let down — and brought in Aceves, who was working as a starter in Triple-A but will be a bullpen option tonight. Manager Joe Girardi said that “right now” Aceves is strictly a reliever.
“I want him to be a guy that we can use in a lot of different areas,” Girardi said. “Obviously today he’s our long man, just in case we need something. But (he is) a guy we could use for two innings, three innings, an inning; use in a lot of different ways. That’s the guy that we had before, and that’s what we want.”
Aceves said most of what he’d been working on in Triple-A had to do with his fastball, when to throw it and where to locate it. He had a 1.98 ERA through 13.2 innings with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It’s worth noting, though, that Aceves struggled his past two years in the big leagues. Pitching in a variety of roles with the Red Sox, Aceves had a combined 5.21 ERA with a 1.45 WHIP the past two seasons. He had a 4.25 ERA in eight Triple-A starts last season.
“It’s a guy that is extremely competitive,” Girardi said. “And sometimes the competitiveness can get the best of him a little bit. But it’s a guy that I really believe knows how to pitch (and) that can help a club. He was very successful here when we had him, and then he took on some different roles in different places and has bounced around a little bit. He took on a closer role, which he never had before, and at times he struggled with that a little bit, but he still had a substantial amount of saves over there. The big thing for me for him is that he continues to pitch the way he’s capable of. He has the ability to mix pitches and have different weapons to get different people out.”
• Girardi said that, had last night’s game not gone so late into the night, Derek Jeter might have played today’s game. “Once we got into that really long game and the quick turn around, I changed my mind,” Girardi said. As it is, Jeter will sit and Yangervis Solarte will make his first major-league start at shortstop.
• There was no checking with guys before putting the lineup together. Girardi said he basically knew what he was going to do when last night’s game ended. Not particularly surprising that he’s sitting the veterans Jeter and Carlos Beltran, while also sitting John Ryan Murphy, who caught most of last night’s game.
• Shawn Kelley and Adam Warren are unavailable tonight. Girardi said he’d have to check with the other relievers to know for sure who he can and can’t use.
• With a short bullpen, this would be a good time for Masahiro Tanaka to pitch deep into a game. Of course, that hasn’t been much of a problem so far this season. “It’s important because we’ll be without some guys today in our bullpen,” Girardi said. “We just need him to go out and do it. The one thing I don’t want him to think is that he has to go out there and pitch nine innings and get away from what he does trying to have quick innings. He just needs to get people out, and then we’ll take care of the rest.”
• Girardi said he’s not afraid to go 110 pitches with Tanaka, but he wouldn’t go much beyond that. He’s not expecting to let Tanaka throw 130 pitches today.
• Not a lot of sleep for Aceves last night. He said he was asleep around 1 a.m. when he got the call that he was being called up for today’s game. He had to leave at 4 a.m. to catch a flight from Virginia to New York. “I’m excited to be back,” he said. “I was excited to be here.”
• After a bad loss last night, the Yankees could really use a bounce back game this afternoon. “I feel pretty good about this group,” Girardi said. “I think we’ve responded already to some adversity.”
Associated Press photos