After missing the entire 2011 season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery to repair, closer David Aardsma signed a minor league deal with the New York Yankees in February, hoping to eventually pitch again in the majors. After starting a 30-day minor league rehab assignment on Tuesday, Aardsma is now expected to make an impact in New York's bullpen earlier than expected, with pitching in the regular season being a good possibility.
"He will be ready in time to help us," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said of Aardsma, who pitched two scoreless innings in his first rehab assignment with the Yankees' rookie league team. "I wasn't certain of anything, especially with a player who wasn't one of ours."
Aardsma's contract was a one year deal worth $500,000, with a team option for the 2013 season. The Yankees wanted to get him under contract for this year while he recovered, hoping to use next year's option to keep him on the team if he could return to be the pitcher he was before surgery. Now, Aardsma seems to be recovering quicker than expected and could add another late-inning option to the Yankees bullpen for the end of the season and into the playoffs.
After closer and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera's season was ended with a torn ACL and fill-in closer David Robertson landed on the disabled list, the Yankees once dominant bullpen seemed to have been depleted. However, Rafael Soriano stepped up to take over the closer role and has been phenomenal, picking up 13 saves in 14 opportunities. Robertson has also returned and once again taken over the eighth inning role, giving the Yankees a consistently dominant late inning combination. With the possible addition of Aardsma later this season, the Yankees will have arguably the strongest bullpen in baseball.
The 30 year-old right-hander hasn't pitched since 2010, but saved 31 games that season for the Seattle Mariners. His best season came in 2009, when he broke out with 38 saves and 2.52 ERA for the Mariners. He has also pitched for the Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, and San Francisco Giants.
"Chamberlain will help us, too," Cashman said, though he would not give a timetable for the 26 year-old right-hander's return.
Chamberlain only pitched in 27 games last year before Tommy John surgery ended his season, then dislocated his ankle while he was working toward a return in spring training.
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