Farrell gets first test from mercurial Aceves

Farrell gets first test from mercurial Aceves
February 17, 2013, 9:40 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- From across the diamond the last two seasons, John Farrell has watched Alfredo Aceves in a Red Sox uniform and seen, firsthand, some of the versatile pitcher's eccentricities.

What he didn't personally witness, he certainly heard about, including Aceves's cat-and-mouse game with former manager Bobby Valentine when Aceves, angered over his loss of the closer's role, refused to directly hand the ball to Valentine on the mound, executing an awkward end-around as he left the hill for the dugout.

On Sunday, Farrell experienced Aceves firsthand.

Aceves was one of many pitchers tasked with throwing live batting practice to teammates. The expectation under these drills is for the pitchers to throw as they would in a game situation -- with full focus and velocity.

But for whatever reason, Aceves decided to defy that protocol and instead, approached his session like a coach throwing batting practice before a game: at two-thirds speed, offering easy-to-hit pitches.

Aceves' unorthodox approach resulted in a mound visit from pitching coach Juan Nieves, who delivered what seemed to be a firm rebuke to the pitcher. Later, Aceves met with Farrell, too.

"The one thing I'll say about that," said Farrell, "is that he didn't go through the drill as intended and we have addressed it."

Asked if he was disappointed by the action, Farrell responded: "As I said, his session on the mound didn't go as intended. He's healthy and it's been addressed. (The effort level) was better the last few (pitches), but it's been discussed."

A club source, when asked if Aceves seemed to be testing the new manager, said: "Absolutely."

For his part, Aceves denied that there an issue in the first place.

"(I was) trying to do whatever is usual for me," he said, "and also usual for every single one of us -- trying to train another day, for spring training."

When asked what message Nieves and Farrell imparted, Aceves demurred.

"Something they say (stays within) the team," said Aceves.

Asked if he was satisfied with his mound session, Aceves answered: "Of course. Of course. Of course. There's a lot of work coming through spring training. I'm just satisfied about today."

The relationship between Aceves and Farrell will bear watching, if only because Aceves has been considered high-maintenance. Things boiled over last year with his interaction with Valentine, which was followed later in the season by an angry confrontation with the manager in late August, resulting in a three-game suspension.

Farrell insisted that he won't hold Aceves responsible for what happened with Valentine or anyone else in the past.

"(We'll) start everybody fresh," said Farrell. "What took place last year, I can't speak to first-hand. I can get some background on some certain situations, but I think it's important for every guy in that clubhouse that we build that relationship and earn that trust along the way. That's critical."

Unlike, say, Jon Lester or John Lackey or Daniel Bard or Clay Buchholz, Farrell has no prior relationship with Aceves.

"I'm still getting to know him," said Farrell. "From across the field, he's a heck of a competitor and a very talented pitcher. I'm starting to gain my own personal history with him. And we had a part of that discussion today.

"The most important thing is what our team concept it. There are 25 individuals on this team, but there are certain things that are going to be accepted. I think those are normal in any kind of clubhouse or team setting. And if someone strays from outside of that, it's our job, or my job, to make it clear what's expected."

The two spoke by phone last winter when Farrell told Aceves that he would be used out of the bullpen, but stretched out some in spring training in case the team needed depth in the rotation.

"(I view him as a) multi-inning reliever," said Farrell. "We want to take advantage of his versatility and his resiliency."

Aceves has made it clear in the past that he prefers to start. He eventually warmed to the closer's role last season when Andrew Bailey suffered a thumb injury in spring training which required surgery, but was livid when some struggles in August resulted in him losing the role.

"He wants to be in a role of responsibility," noted Farrell. "He likes to be a guy who's counted on and he's proven it, many times over, that he's a talented pitcher who can pitch late in a game and can be trusted, as a pitcher. We've got to ensure that remains consistent. And part of that would be my consistency with him, whether it's to have a difficulty conversation or pat him on the back."