TRENTON – It’s a warm summer evening on July 2 at ARM & HAMMER Park as the Thunder host the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in an eastern division battle. Official team scorer Greg Zak announces a 7:03 P.M. first-pitch temperature of 97 degrees as right-hander Domingo Acevedo delivers a called first strike fastball at 97 MPH to Bo Bichette to begin the evening.
Two things that stuck out immediately in those opening moments during Acevedo’s last start were the fact that the imposing 6’7″, 250-pounder is pitching while wearing long sleeves in scorching heat, and most importantly – his velocity appeared to be back on par (94-96 MPH) after it had been down a few notches (92-93 MPH) earlier in the 2018 campaign.
Why the long sleeves? The Yankees fourth ranked prospect on the Pinstriped Prospects preseason top-75 list, had admitted previously that he sweats profusely when he is out on the mound. So why would a big guy who sweats so much wear something that would make him sweat even more?
“I sweat a lot,” Acevedo said. “I like to wear long sleeves because it helps keep the sweat off my hand. I do it during practice, too. It doesn’t happen to me during my bullpens.”
Acevedo began the season 0-1 with a 2.61 ERA in just two starts before landing on the disabled list on April 12 with a blister on his right index finger. The 24-year old would remain on the shelf for nearly six weeks before returning out of the bullpen on May 28 at Erie.
“To be honest, I didn’t feel one hundred percent,” Acevedo said. “I felt a little difficult for my body, but now I’m ready to stay in the game and continue my season and continue working.”
Choosing to slowly build his stamina back up, the Yankees opted for a slow transition back into the rotation for Acevedo by keeping him in the bullpen for a few weeks. In total, the Dominican-native made three relief appearances, all of them five days apart. After tossing six scoreless innings of one hit ball over his first two outings, Acevedo had trouble locating and was tagged for four runs on seven hits against Richmond on June 6.
At the time, Acevedo had admitted that he felt much more comfortable in his customary role as a starter, but would work in any role that the organization asked him to fill. Since returning to the rotation on June 13, the righty has tossed 17 2/3 innings over four starts and has allowed just five earned runs on a limited pitch count each time out.
“I feel good. I feel comfortable,” Acevedo said. “I feel now that I am back to my regular routine. It was a little bit different starting at the beginning of the season and then being a reliever. I feel my power is coming back, my secondary pitches , my slider and change-up and my fastball command is better now.”
Thunder Manager Jay Bell believes that working out of the bullpen initially has benefited Acevedo as he builds his pitch count back up, which is slated to be north of the 90-pitch mark during his next start on Sunday afternoon at Altoona.
“I think that were a couple of things early on that helped,” said Bell. “Going on the DL for that little stint helped, starting out in the bullpen helped. I am only speculating, but I think that it really did.”
Bell added, “He was able to get out there and get after his fastball a little bit more. To be honest, whenever he is nice and free and fluid and he is directional to the plate, that fastball comes out really good. When he tries to overcook it or tries to increase his velocity, that’s when those big muscles get in there and he slows down a little bit. I think the combination of all of it has been beneficial for him this year.”
Acevedo added, “I think that the bullpen helped me feel healthy and strong. For me, I now know that I have more situations that I know I can do. Whether they use me as a starter or a reliever, I don’t have problems with that because I know I can do it.”