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Yankees beat Pirates 6-0 in split-squad game

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Alfredo Aceves may be pushing his way into the thick of the battle for the No. 5 spot in the New York Yankees' starting rotation.

Aceves tossed four perfect innings Monday in a 6-0 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a split squad game for both teams. In two outings this spring, both against the Pirates, the right-hander has retired all 18 batters he's faced.

Aceves, who worked one inning more than originally planned, struck out three. He threw just 36 pitches in the game, then tossed another 16 in the bullpen before cooling down.

"He's a strike-throwing machine," said Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. "He's a great weapon for us."

Along with Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin, Aceves went into spring training as a long-shot for a rotation job. The front-runners are Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. Even if he doesn't wind up a starter, Aceves could nab a roster spot as a long reliever and fill-in starter.

"I would like to be a starter," Aceves said. "But it's not up to me."

Last season, Aceves made 43 appearances, all but one out of the bullpen, after being promoted from Triple-A Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He led the major leagues with 10 victories in relief.

"He throws a lot of strikes," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "He doesn't really fall behind guys. It's makes it fun to play behind him because he keeps you on your toes."

The Yankees put their first four batters on base and scored two runs off left-hander Paul Maholm.

Singles by Derek Jeter and Randy Winn and a walk to Curtis Granderson loaded the bases. Alex Rodriguez backed out of the box, thinking he had been nicked by a 1-1 pitch, but umpire Justin Vogel ruled it a ball. On a full count, Rodriguez bounced a two-run single into center field.

"That ball hit me square on the foot," Rodriguez said. "(Vogel) wasn't buying."

Maholm, the Pirates' likely opening day starter, worked two innings. He allowed three hits, walked two and struck out one.

"I didn't do myself any favors by falling behind almost every guy that came up there in the first," Maholm said. "I made some decent pitches and the balls that were hit were just grounders up the middle. But I went back out and found my rhythm a little bit better and had a quicker inning."

NOTES: Pirates closer Octavio Dotel is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Tuesday. It will be his first time throwing off a mound since Feb. 21, when he sustained a strained oblique. "I feel good. I'm ready to go," Dotel said.