Bard, Aceves spring debuts don't tell much

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Bard, Aceves spring debuts don't tell much

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves are attempting to make the transition from the Red Sox bullpen to the starting rotation, but their spring debuts Thursday didn't offer much in the way of a revelation.

For one thing, with both pitchers scheduled, only one (Aceves) could actually start the game. For another, since it was the first outing for both, they were each limited to a single inning -- just as they would be in their former roles.

Aceves allowed a run on three hits in the first, and Bard was touched for a run on two hits in the second.

"It's good to get the first one of the way," said Bard after the Minnesota Twins met the Sox in a spring 'B' game at Hammond Stadium, "get rid of those nerves with hitters in the box. I felt like I made some good pitches, tried some things that I probably wouldn't try in a normal game setting."

"Bard had good pitches, but he was upset with his selection," said manager Bobby Valentine. "He threw a changeup behind in the count 1-and-0, and then he threw the two-seamer after he hung the slider. He wasnt too happy with that.

"But his stuff was all right. He was working on the two-seamer. He didnt get much work on his changeup or his slider, but he pitched out of the windup and got that over with. He pitched out of the stretch and looked okay."

Said catcher Ryan Lavarnway of Bard: "He didn't have good control of his two-seamer today, but his four-seamer was staying true. He had good control of that. He threw a couple of sliders in there.

It's too early for the Sox to evaluate how Bard's stuff is translating as a starter and determine arm strength and stamina. But according to Bard, it won't be too long.

"I haven't gone three innings in a long time," he said, "so that first time going out for the third time is going to be a little different. But I'm not really thinking that far ahead, just taking it one outing at a time."

As an aspiring starter, Bard now finds himself pitching out of the full windup at times, rather than only out of the stretch delivery, as he did in relief. Even that, he said, isn't much of an adjustment.

"I've been doing it so much on my sides since I started working out for the season," Bard said, "so I'm not even thinking about it out there. It just feels like second nature."

Assuming Bard doesn't experience any physical issues, he's virtually assured of making the rotation.

Aceves, though, is likely in more of a spirited battle, with a handful of others vying for the fifth spot: Andrew Miller, Aaron Cook, Ross Ohlendorf, Felix Doubront and Vicenta Padilla are just some of the others.

Still, he said he's not focused on the competition this spring.

"Nothing about that," insisted Aceves. "I'm just do whatever I have to do to do my job. The result is going to come. I'm working more on my health and get back to the level I was. I'm not competing against nobody. I think every single (potential starter) has a chance to be in the rotation. But we're here to contribute as a team, for a purpose."

Aceves gave up a run on three hits, though one was an infield dribbler.

"I thought he threw the ball pretty well," said Lavarnway. "His curveball had good angle on it. His fastball had good life."

"Acves was okay," said Valentine. "He threw a lot of pitches that he wanted to work on. He was okay with his work, so I was okay with his work."

Unlike Bard, who has been strictly a reliever in the big leagues, Aceves has been more of a swing man in his career. Last year, he made 51 appearances out of the bullpen, and four more as a fill-in starter.

"Personal opinion, I like to start more," said Aceves. "I'm someone who can eat innings. But right now, we're working on getting back on track like I was last year."

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Don’t count the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the Paul George sweepstakes just yet.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Haynes, the Cavaliers are still working on a way to get George with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Ohio.

The latest rumor involves a three way deal being discussed between the Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and Denver Nuggets. According to Hayes, the deal would send George and Kenenth Faried to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Denver.

Presumably, Indiana would end up with good picks and a few young assets.

Click here for the complete story.

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.