McAdam: Red Sox continue cleanup effort by optioning toxic Aceves

McAdam: Red Sox continue cleanup effort by optioning toxic Aceves
April 25, 2013, 12:15 am
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BOSTON -- If you needed any further evidence that these are no longer your 2012 Red Sox, it arrived Wednesday about a half-hour after the 2013 version held off the Oakland A's, 6-5.

Alfredo Aceves was summoned by pitching coach Juan Nieves to manager John Farrell's office, where, behind closed doors, the pitcher was told by Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington that he was being optioned to Pawtucket.

Effecitve immediately.

The demotion came less than 24 hours after Aceves embarrassed himself by allowing eight runs in 3 1/3 innings, an outing which included two balks, a throwing error and a failure to cover first base on a ground ball to the right side of the infield -- all in the same inning.

Worse, Aceves blamed his poor performance on the wet conditions and a tight strike zone, while questioning why his teammates didn't produce any offense against Oakland starter Bartolo Colon.

That ill-timed bit of finger pointing didn't sit well in the clubhouse, or in the manager's office. Farrell, who was aware of the comments from Aceves, coldly stated: "If that's how he chooses to describe [Tuesday night], I wouldn't put it on his teammates, by any means.''

Enough was enough after the game, and Aceves was told he was being sent to Pawtucket.

A Red Sox source maintained that the decision to option Aceves was performance-based, and not punitive or disciplinary in nature. But it's hard not to think his behavior -- on the field, and later, off it -- didn't contribute  something to the decision.

These are the new Red Sox, remember, the ones whose promos on their own TV network feature buzzwords like "respect'' and "accountability.''

On Tuesday, Aceves didn't show any of the former, and didn't offer any of the latter, either.

The Sox' options here are, truth be told, limited. One baseball source said Wednesday that the Sox hadn't called around much -- if at all -- on Aceves. Those calls, the Red Sox surely know, would be an exercise in futility.

For one thing, Aceves, thanks to salary arbitration, makes $2.65 million this season. Even in a pitching-starved environment, that's a lot of money for a swingman.

Given the poor reputation Aceves rightfully carries throughout the game, few -- if any -- teams would be willing to assume both his money and his emotional baggage. Unless the Red Sox wanted to eat the remainder of the money due him, they wouldn't get anything much in return.

And then there's his performance. In five appearances this season, Aceves sports an 8.66 ERA. Not that his downturn began this season: in the final two months of last year, during which he incurred a three-game suspension from the team, Aceves compiled a bloated 8.42 ERA while opposing hitters batted a robust .306 against him.

It's one thing to pitch poorly. It's another to pitch poorly and create a distraction, which Aceves clearly did during and after Tuesday's loss.

The Red Sox are 14-7 and in first place. More signficiantly, however, is the fact that they have successfully changed the roster, changed the manager, changed the coaching staff and changed the culture.

The Sox aren't toxic the way they were a year ago. Wednesday showed they weren't going to let an underperforming pitcher sabotage the cleanup effort that is ongoing.

They didn't just send Alfredo Aceves to Pawtucket. They also succeeded in sending a message -- to the pitcher, yes, but also to the rest of clubhouse.