Aceves temporarily idled by back problem

Yankees' relief pitcher Alfredo Aceves. (Mar. 25, 2010) Yankees' relief pitcher Alfredo Aceves. (Mar. 25, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

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SARASOTA, Fla. - Alfredo Aceves will be down the next few days with a lingering lower-back problem that has bothered him since September, but Joe Girardi doesn't think the issue will keep the righthander from being ready for Sunday's season opener.

"I expect him to pitch this week, and if he pitches this week, he would be ready," Girardi said before last night's game against the Orioles.

Aceves saw two doctors in January about his injury, which Girardi described as being "disc-related." "He was tight and a little out of line," Girardi said. "He's better today."

Still, Girardi said Aceves won't pitch Tuesday as scheduled and that he's "day-to-day."

The problem is one that probably won't go away anytime soon, as Girardi, who has experienced various back problems for 20 years, knows well.

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"The back is a tricky thing," Girardi said. "You can bend over and pick up a coffee cup and all of a sudden it grabs at you. So it's something you have to manage and stay on top of every day."

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Left, right, left

At Girardi's request, switch pitcher Pat Venditte will be on the Yankees' split-squad travel team in Orlando to face the Braves.

"I wanted to see it all spring," Girardi said of Venditte, 25, who can (and does) pitch with either hand. "I've been intrigued to see him. He had a great year last year."

Venditte went 4-2 with 22 saves and a 1.87 ERA in 49 relief appearances with Class A Charleston and Class A Tampa last season.

Decisions, decisions

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Girardi said he doesn't need to see anything more to make his decision on whether Curtis Granderson or Brett Gardner begins the season in leftfield (with the other in center).

"I'm not quite ready to make that decision,'' he said, "but I'm definitely leaning one way."

The expectation is that Granderson will start in center. Girardi said the final roster cuts will come Thursday or Friday.

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Hughes going down?

Girardi said the idea of having Phil Hughes begin the season in the minor leagues - because of early off days, the Yankees likely won't need a fifth starter right away - and carrying an extra reliever out of camp will be broached. "That's always an option," Girardi said. "But we haven't had a lengthy discussion about that.''

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