Aceves comes through in yet another spot start

Aceves comes through in yet another spot start
June 18, 2013, 8:45 pm
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Three wins in three emergency starts have earned Alfredo Aceves a trip back to Pawtucket each time.

(AP Photo)

BOSTON - The Red Sox haven't gotten a win out of No. 1 starter Jon Lester since May 15, more than a month ago. They haven't gotten so much as an outing from No. 2 starter Clay Buchholz, who's been skipped because of nagging injuries twice in the past four times through the rotation before being placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday.

Before the rain-delayed nightcap of a doubleheader with the Rays on Tuesday, No. 4 starter Felix Doubront had won only once since the end of April (one win, three losses, three no-decisions).

But somehow, Alfredo Aceves, who keeps parachuting in and out of the Red Sox rotation, is a perfect 3-0 in his past three starts.

What, one wonders, were the odds of that only a few short months ago?

Not long after he was battered for eight runs on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings by Oakland on April 23, Aceves's days seemed numbered in a Red Sox uniform.

He appeared disinterested that night, failing to cover first base on a ground ball to the right side while being charged with two balks. Later, he attempted to explain his horrid outing by simultaneously blaming the umpires and questioning the poor run support offered by his teammates.

Days later, Aceves was exiled to Pawtucket and many thought he would never again pitch for the Red Sox.

Instead, Aceves has pitched well in three spot starts, managing to bolster his reputation while providing the Sox with real value as a depth starter. In three starts, he's 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA.

When the Sox were working through the first of Buchholz's injuries, Aceves held the Phillies to a single run in six innings. Just about two weeks later, when the Sox were coming out of a rain-soaked weekend against the Angels and the rotation got bunched up, Aceves again delivered six innings of one-run ball.

And finally, with the Sox facing another doubleheader and presented with the option of adding a 26th player for the day, the Sox borrowed Aceves for the first game and got another one-run performance.

This time, Aceves pitched only five innings, but that was weather-related more than anything else: Aceves had thrown just 75 pitches and surely could  have gone another inning (or two) before rain delayed the Red Sox' 5-1 victory just shy of three hours.

Over the weekend, with perhaps tongue planted firmly in cheek, Farrell noted that Aceves was uniquely suited for "unstructured'' situations like  these spot starts.

So it was Aceves again Tuesday, who pitched as though he had been in the rotation all along and was merely taking his regular turn.

Other than a wobbly second when he allowed his only run and created his own trouble by walking the bases loaded, Aceves cruised, retiring the first three and 10 of his last 12.

"The one thing he's shown in the three starts,'' said Farrell, "is good focus in between the lines. He and [Jarrod Saltalamacchia] have gotten on a pretty good wavelength and he's come out and thrown the ball to the glove...
He's got the ability to, I don't want to say 'pitch on the fly.' But to come in knowing that it's a one-shot deal and done a very good job.''

Of course, this wouldn't be an Aceves appearance without a modicum of drama.

It seems that he got stuck in some pre-game traffic around the ballpark and was late enough getting to Fenway that the Sox had reliever Franklin Morales getting ready to warm up in the bullpen in the event Aceves didn't arrive in time.

"Ace was delayed,'' confirmed Farrell. "He's not a guy who reports to the clubhouse early to begin with and was a little delayed. But he had ample time to get loose inside, go out and throw his 25 pitches of warmup. Much like we talked about the unstructured ability to perform, today, he was at it.

"We were in contact with him and he was on his way in.''

After the game, he was back on his way out -- to Pawtucket -- presumably ready for the next time, parachute at the ready.