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."

First impressions of Red Sox’ 2-1 loss to Rays

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First impressions of Red Sox’ 2-1 loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First Impressions from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field:

 

* When the guy who was 0-for-34 produces the go-ahead RBI, it's probably not your day.

The Red Sox and Rays were tied 1-1 in the seventh when Steven Souza Jr. singled to lead off the inning. That brought Mikie Mahtook, hitless in his last 34 at-bats to the plate.

Naturally, Mahtook roped a line-drive double to left field, scoring Souza all the way from first base. It was that kind of day for the Red Sox, who were 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position and stranded five baserunners.

For a team that still leads the majors in runs scored, the Red Sox have shown an uncanny ability to go cold at the plate.

On Thursday afternoon, that happened again, while the most unlikely hero for Tampa Bay came through in an improbable spot.

 

* The Red Sox' struggles with the bases loaded is almost comical.

It happened again.

In the sixth inning, the Red Sox loaded the bases with no out. Mookie Betts then hit a sacrifice fly to left, scoring one run. Hanley Ramirez then walked, re-loading the bases, this time with one out.

But Jackie Bradley Jr. then swung at the first pitch and hit into an inning-ending, rally-killing 4-6-3 double play.

In two plate appearances with the bases loaded, the Sox failed to get a hit.

The Sox are hitting .216 with the bases loaded (24-for-111), ranking them 14th in the American League. Only Seattle and Detroit have had more bases-loaded opportunities, and yet the Red Sox rank in the second half in runs scored in such situations.

 

* Drew Pomeranz is showing no signs of innings fatigue

True, Pomeranz failed to provide a shutdown inning in the sixth after the Red Sox had gotten him a run in the top of the inning.

Still, Pomeranz pitched into the seventh and allowed just two runs while striking out a season-high 11 batters.

In his past five starts, he's compiled a 2.37 ERA, and both the power to his fastball and the sharpness to his curve offer no evidence that he's hit any sort of wall despite already establishing a career high at the major league level with five weeks remaining in the season.