The 21-year old Dominican native pitched a season-high five innings against Hudson Valley on July 4th, giving up only one earned run, three hits and striking out seven. This was by far his best outing of the season as his fastball, changeup and recently developed slider gave early indications that he may move up in the Yankees’ system if he can remain healthy.
“I think he’s had two okay starts and his last start was phenomenal,” Staten Island manager Pat Osborn said.” “Hopefully that’s what you’re going to see from here on out. He can be dominant, he’s got that type of ability and that type of stuff.”
In three starts with Staten Island so far this season, Acevedo has not yet recorded a win or loss but is pitching to a 2.38 ERA in eleven innings with eleven strikeouts and only four walks. Despite these good numbers, Acevedo and Staten Island’s coaching staff believe that he has more to work on when it comes to consistency and mechanics.
“I’ve felt very good,” Acevedo said through the help of a translator. “Being a starter is very different and I’m working very hard and training my body this first month.”
The most impressive aspects of Acevedo’s game are his fastball and changeup which according to pitching coach Butch Henry are Major League ready. His fastball can range anywhere from 95 to 100 miles per hour and his changeup has great stuff according to Osborn.
The biggest thing that Acevedo has been working on, however, has been the perfection of his slider which he and the Yankees believe to be critical to becoming a dominant starter.
“I had a lot of problems with that before,” Acevedo said.” “I’ve always had a good changeup. I really want to be a good starter and when I improve with the slider, I will be very difficult to hit.”
Osborn is reluctant to say that the slider is where it needs to be and like Henry, he believes that if Acevedo can be more consistent with his slider, it will not be long before he is promoted further up in the Yankees’ system.
“It needs more work,” Osborn said. “I think once you see that and it’s consistent, you’re going to see a kid move pretty quickly. It shows up and it goes away so we just need to make it more consistent.”
Henry was impressed with how the slider was moving in the last outing and continues to work with Acevedo to modify the pitch so that it is not as harmful to his finger.
“The slider was good,” Henry said. “This last outing he got a little better spin with it. It had a little bigger break to it which is what we’re looking for. We’re looking to get a little different break, one that can be a little easier on his finger.”
Acevedo started the 2015 season with single-A Charleston and after one short lived start where he pitched 1.2 innings gave up two hits and one run, was sent to Extended Spring Training to nurse a blister that had appeared on his pitching hand.
“I saw him a few times in Extended and he looked like he was still battling the blister problem,” Osborn said. “It’s tough to work on pitches, and this and that, when your finger’s affected. I think that the number one goal for him was just to get that right.”
As Extended Spring Training came to a close, Acevedo was still battling his blister problem which limited him to three innings in his first two starts with Staten Island.
“He was inconsistent early, still getting over the after effects of the blister that we still had to treat,” Henry said. “His last outing was the best he’s pitched in a while. Finger felt good, he was getting good extension, and slider had good depth.”
Osborn is no stranger to Acevedo. Having coached him in the Gulf Coast League last year, Osborn has seen much improvement in him as a starter and has high hopes for what will come in this young pitcher’s future.
“His breaking ball is better than what I saw last season,” Osborn said. “That third pitch is going to take him to the next level. This guy can be special.”
Born in Villa Los Almacigos, Dominican Republic, Acevedo has played for the Yankees organization since he was 19 years old in 2013. After pitching in 11 games in the 2013 Dominican Summer league, Acevedo joined the Yankees in the Gulf Coast League last year and pitched to a mediocre ERA of 4.11 in five games as a reliever. Acevedo attended Spring Training with the Yankees before the season and proved to be somebody who the Yankees could work on in single A.
“I felt good in Spring Training,” Acevedo said. “I worked in January down in the Dominican complex and trained there in preparation for Spring Training.”
In the early going of his baseball career in America, Acevedo felt that he could use a combination of his imposing 6-foot-7 height and the fact that players had never seen him before to his advantage. However, Acevedo feels that he has become more than just a mysterious power pitcher as he has been focused on developing his knowledge and overall ability on the mound.
“Last year I just came over to the United States. In the two innings that I would pitch, I wanted to surprise everybody who did not know who I was. This season, I’m better prepared mentally. I’m more focused in knowing what I want to do and why I want to do it. I also know what I need to do to improve.”
Acevedo also acknowledged that he worked very closely with his coaches to prepare his body for the increase in innings and pitch count that he would experience as a starter.
“I want to work on a better delivery and consistent mechanics, Acevedo said. “I want to be able to throw any pitch in any count.”
To truly become a Major League professional it is not only important to work hard on but off the field and Henry has been very impressed with what he has seen from Acevedo in that area. With a hard working mindset and a recovered finger, Acevedo can continue to learn how to pitch and become someone that younger players can look up to.
“He’s a hardworking, maybe at times an over-worker,” Henry said. “He did a good job going about his business and working like a professional.”
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