Versatile Aceves making decision tough for Valentine

585650.jpg

Versatile Aceves making decision tough for Valentine

FORT MYERS, Fla. Alfredo Aceves is presenting Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine with a dilemma: Finding a spot for the versatile right-hander.

Right now Aceves is penciled in as the fifth starter. But after proving to be one of the most reliable bullpen arms last season, its difficult for Valentine to determine what Aceves ultimate role will be or for how long.

Its a relatively new situation for Valentine.

I havent had many pitchers like Aceves, Valentine said. Cant tell you that I reach back into that experience jar and pull one of them out. I havent had as many pitchers as talented as he is who is as versatile as he is. Had versatile guys without exceptional talent, and thats why they become versatile, like I was a versatile player.

Aceves has always expressed his desire to be in the rotation, but he has also said that he is willing to do what is best for the team.

He started a B game Thursday against the Twins, and followed Daniel Bard to the mound Tuesday against the Orioles. Aceves threw two perfect innings Tuesday, with two strikeouts.

Aceves looked like it was just a day at the beach for him, Valentine said. He was throwing the ball well, and hit his spots, and used more pitches, and different type pitches than Daniel did. They all seemed to be pretty effective.

Last season, Aceves made 55 appearances for the Sox, with four starts, spanning 114 innings all career highs. He posted a record of 10-2, with two saves and a 2.61 ERA. Valentine liked what he saw.

He seemed to be able to attack different types of hitters in a variety of ways, Valentine said. Thats what jumped out at me. And then I saw it was pretty good stuff that he was featuring doing that. And then Ive heard about him and watched him.

Hes almost like a pitching savant kind of guy. He seems to have a great feel for his craft, innate almost. He sees things other guys dont see, I think.

While Aceves is making Valentines job easy for now saying and doing all the right things eventually the task will get more difficult.

Aceves is a very valuable asset, but it becomes a quandary after a while, a personal dilemma, Valentine said. But between me and him, probably our pitching coach and him, the group and him. Its great to have him. Keep him healthy, thats the key.

Valentine is not totally sold on that notion of informing pitchers in spring training of their precise roles, he said. Besides, those roles can change throughout the course of a season.

If I thought that all the answers that Im seeking would be discovered by April 5, then I didnt learn anything from the other 24 years that I tried to do this job, he said. I dont do a timetable on it. Sometimes things take more time to develop and to try to have Opening Day, the 29th of March, the 15th of May, any one of those days be the determining factor isnt fair to the situation or the individuals.

Monday, Dec. 5: Craig Cunningham's recovery

Monday, Dec. 5: Craig Cunningham's recovery

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while fully getting in the holiday spirit by getting the family Christmas tree this week.

*Very good and very sobering story about Craig Cunningham’s slow recovery, and his large support system with the AHL Roadrunners team he is captaining this season. It sounds like it might be a bit of a long road for him, so he and his family will need that support from those around him.

*Tyler Seguin has his shot back, and that’s great news for the Dallas Stars power play. So is that like Stella getting her groove back?

*A KHL player went into a sliding dab formation in order to celebrate a goal on the ice, and we salute him for that.

*The Maple Leafs are trying to fortify their backup goaltending situation after waiving Jhonas Enroth this week.

*Interesting Bob McKenzie piece about a young man that’s hoping to challenge conventional thinking in the hockey coaching ranks.

*TSN’s Scott Cullen takes a look at Winnipeg rookie Patrik Laine’s shooting skills as part of his “Statistically Speaking” column.

*For something completely different: the hits just keep on coming for Netflix as they’re going to double their TV series output over the next year.

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- As the annual winter meetings get underway today, the market for arguably the best free-agent hitter may be -- against all logic -- lessening.

Edwin Encarnacion, who has averaged 39 homers a year over the last five seasons, should be a player in demand.

But in quick succession, the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, two teams thought to be in the market for Encarnacion, opted to go with older hitters who required shorter deals -- Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday.

Further, the Toronto Blue Jays' signing of Steve Pearce to a two-year deal Monday, coupled with their earlier acquisition of Kendrys Morales, closes the door on a potential return to Toronto for Encarnacion.

Seemingly, all of that would position the Red Sox, in search of a DH to replace the retired David Ortiz, to swoop in and land Encarnacion for far less than they could have imagined only weeks ago.

And yet, it appears as though things would have to change considerably for the Red Sox to reach agreement with Encarnacion.

While the first baseman-DH is known to be Ortiz's first choice as his replacement, for now, the economics don't work for the Sox -- even as Enacarnacion's leverage drops.

Encarnacion is expecting a deal of at least four years, with an average annual value around $20 million.

The Red Sox, industry sources indicate, are very much mindful of the luxury tax threshold. The Sox have, however modestly, gone over the threshold in each of the last two seasons, and even with a bump due to last week's new CBA, the Sox are dangerously close to the 2018 limit of $195 million.

Should the Sox go over for a third straight year, their tax would similarly ratchet up.

That, and the fact that Encarnacion would cost the Sox their first-round pick next June -- for this offseason, compensation for players given a qualifying offer comes under the old CBA rules -- represents two huge disincentives.

It's far more likely that the Sox will seek a cheaper option at DH from among a group that includes Pedro Alvarez and Mike Napoli. Neither is in Encarnacion's class, but then again, neither would cost a draft pick in return, or the long-term investment that Encarnacion is said to be seeking.