Considering all the pitch counts and inning limits and other assorted rules the Yankees have instituted over the past couple of years to get Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes prepared for lives as starting pitchers, it's safe to say that Alfredo Aceves cracking the rotation was never part of any grand Yankee strategy. Ah, the best-laid plans.
Chamberlain's been an unfortunate combination of ineffective and physically ill so far this spring (he's got an ERA of 27.00 and had a stomach bug that caused him to lose eight pounds), and though Hughes has been better than that, Aceves's numbers trump them all: He's 1–0 in three outings with a 0.90 ERA. And since the fifth spot in the rotation will be decided largely on performance this spring — Joe Girardi said he'll factor in last year's performance when making a decision, something we can't believe has to be said — Aceves has emerged as the front-runner.
Aceves has said he prefers starting to relieving, for what it's worth. He got just one start last year (it didn't go well), otherwise pitching effectively out of the bullpen. But the Post reports that one of the advantages to using Aceves as a starter is that the regular work would be better for his balky back than the more sporadic role of a reliever. A starting pitcher with a bad back? What could possibly go wrong!