ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Throughout spring training, the Red Sox talked of the importance of a deep starting rotation well beyond the five starters with which they would open the season.
Injuries happen -- that's a fact of life, never more so in 2013, when teams don't wish to take chances with expensive mound talent.
Already this year, John Lackey visited the disabled list with biceps tendinitis and Clay Buchholz has missed one start and had his next one pushed back.
In 2004, the Red Sox, incredibly, managed to get through the entire 162-game season with just five starting pitchers.
In 2013, with less than half the season gone, they've already used nine different starters.
In the last 2 1/2 weeks alone, they've had three games started by spot or emergency starters -- two by Alfredo Aceves and another by Franklin Morales.
They're 3-0 in those games, which speaks to the quality of their pitching depth. While some teams fumble and try to find suitable fourth and fifth starters to round out their thin rotations, the Sox have found reinforcements beyond that.
For those three games combined, Red Sox starters have allowed a total of four earned runs over 17 innings, an ERA of 2.11.
"They've done an excellent job," gushed John Farrell of the team's depth starters. "Hopefully, we can look back at some point this season and point to the contributions of the guys who've stepped in, filled in and given us a lift. This was a very good series to win here and Ace had a lot to do with that."
"His curveball was sharp," said Jarrod Saltalamacchia of Aceves, "and he threw everything for strikes. He didn't throw a lot of pitches, either, so I think he had more in him. He did a great job."
Saltalamacchia believes that Aceves has approached his two spot starts with a renewed focus. Aceves has been unhappy that he hasn't been given a chance to start more, and when he foolishly made excuses for a poor start against Oakland, then compounded things by wondering why his teammates didn't provide him with better offensive support, he began to lose the clubhouse.
Now, humbled by an exile to the minors, Aceves seems intent to quietly make his point.
"His stuff's the same," said the catcher. "But maybe the mental approach, just coming in and letting his stuff play. I think that's been the biggest thing. He's got such great stuff. He doesn't have to overthink it or overpitch. His stuff plays.
"He's in a tough situation. Every time he's coming up, he's come for a reason and he's done it. That's all you can ask of him. That's a guy you want."
Aceves also seemed to be striving to keep the attention off himself Wednesday night.
When asked if he felt any measure of personal satisfaction for his two victories, he redirected the conversation to a larger goal.
"Thanks God, we won," he said. "Like I said, we've got to keep the same momentum that we have."
But when asked if he felt he had shown that belonged in the big leagues, Aceves couldn't resist.
"Of course," he uttered, using a Spanish idiom. "Of course."
He could get that chance soon. The Sox will return Aceves to Pawtucket for the weekend, and while he would ordinarily not be eligible to return for another 10 days, a new rule allowing teams with doubleheaders to add a 26th player for the day circumvents the 10-day minimum.
If it's not Aceves, it could be Morales again. Or Allen Webster, or Rubby De La Rosa.
The Sox have options, which is more than most teams. What's more, they have quality options, which is more than just about everyone else.