Aceves did not make the Yankees' roster out of Spring Training, missing a bid as a long reliever when the club decided to take Jonathan Albaladejo instead. But Aceves has shined since being recalled on May 4, going 3-1 with a 2.75 ERA. He said that he could not have envisioned what has transpired thus far.
"Never," Aceves said. "First of all, I had to make the team first in Spring Training. Now, I'm here, and I've got a lot of work to do, a lot of games to win."
And with both Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte on the disabled list, there is a vacancy in the eighth-inning setup mix. Aceves has made a case for the important innings to keep coming his way.
Aceves has made nine appearances this year for New York and -- though he is still adjusting to the timetable of a reliever -- has been able to pitch on back-to-back days, saying he enjoys his new life working out of the bullpen.
"He's been huge," Mark Teixeira said. "You can't say enough about him. He's meant a lot to us. The most important thing is that he can go out there and eat up innings. He can throw two, three, four innings if you need him. Not many bullpen guys can do that."
A 27-year-old product of Mexico who signed with the Yankees as a free agent in March 2008, Aceves is a little more battle-tested than some other callups, which could give him an advantage in the savvy department. He said that there is no specific reason for his success.
"It's baseball, man," Aceves said. "Sometimes you do good, and sometimes you don't. The thing is you never give up. You work hard and fast, and try to hold the other team as much as we can."
Jorge Posada caught Aceves when he relieved Andy Pettitte in the sixth inning on Friday and saw signs of a confident demeanor on the mound.
"It was the first time I ever caught him," Posada said. "He isn't afraid. He throws a very good curveball, very good changeup and has very good command of his fastball. He cuts it into lefties, and it was fun for me."
Girardi said that he is not thinking of Aceves only as an eighth-inning option, though he certainly has the ability to fill that role when needed.
"I think he's such a competitor and he just wants to pitch, and I think he's always prepared," Girardi said. "He studies hitters, he studies swings and he's able to read swings as a pitcher. I think he loves to compete."
Pettitte said he agreed that Aceves has a lot of Ramiro Mendoza in him, a flashback to the Yankees' dynasty years when Mendoza was an important swingman.
"He's just been amazing. He's been great," Pettitte said. "He comes in, and he knows what he wants to do. He stands out there with a purpose and knows what he wants to throw. He's fun to watch pitch, he really is.
"I loved his makeup last year when I got to see him, and he's just continued to mature as a big league pitcher. You can just see he's filled with confidence out there and hopefully he can keep it up."
Posada came up with an even more striking comparison, drawing a parallel between Aceves and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez -- minus the eye-catching leg kick, of course.
"He's like a bull," Posada said. "Really, he reminds me of El Duque a lot, just his demeanor and the way he goes out there and pitches. He's very good."