Aceves a versatile option for Red Sox

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Aceves a versatile option for Red Sox

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A group of reporters were speaking with Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves Tuesday following his two-inning stint against the Minnesota Twins when someone posed a question and used the word "versatile,'' bringing a look of puzzlement to the pitcher's face.

Aceves, who is from Mexico, generally has good command of English, but this one had him stumped until another reporter translated the word to him in his native Spanish.

The irony, of course, was obvious: Aceves may not understand "versatile,'' but, as a pitcher, he's the very definition of the word.

That was one of the reasons the Red Sox were attracted to him over the winter. They were intrigued by his 12-1 career mark, his proven ability to pitch in the meat grinder that is the American League East, and, naturally, his adaptability.

In another month, he could be in Boston or in Pawtucket. He could be in the bullpen, or he could be in the rotation.

Either way, he's most certainly in the Red Sox' plans.

"That's the eitheror,'' said Terry Francona. "We certainly like the idea of his being stretched out. But he's proven he can do both.''

Aceves, who battled back and collarbone issues last season, was not tendered a contract by the New York Yankees last year, resulting in free agency.

He has a manic likability to him, not unlike Julian Tavarez, who pitched for the Red Sox from 2006-2008 and, like Aceves, could fill a variety of roles on a staff.

Aceves can often be found running around the warning track early in the morning and he approaches his workout routine with zest. Ultimately, however, it will be what he does on the mound that determined where he begins the season, and in what capacity.

"He's a pretty interesting guy,'' said Francona. "Fastball, changeup, breaking ball -- he's got all three pitches and he really loves to compete. He's an interesting guy.''

He pitched scoreless two innings in the Red Sox' 5-0 win over the Minnesota Twins, allowing a hit and a walk and emphasized that neither the lower back injury, not the collarbone injury he battled last fall were factors.

"I'm 100 percent -- that's all I've got,'' said Aceves.

Aceves's preferred role is that of a starter, but he'd be happy to contribute in any way possible if meant sticking with the Red Sox when they open the season April 1. He's among seven or so pitchers battling for the final two spots in the bullpen, and, along with Tim Wakefield, one of their primary insurance policies for the rotation should a starter be felled by injury or ineffectiveness.

"I always keep in mind,'' said Aceves, "that I should throw 'potatoes,' -- zeroes on the scoreboard. If I'm behind in the count, if I have the bases loaded -- I still have zeroes on my mind.''

Aceves has options remaining, meaning he could be sent to Pawtucket to open the season in the Triple A rotation, then be ready should the parent club need re-inforcements.

A more likely scenario, however, would be for Aceves to start the year as a middle- or long reliever in the Boston bullpen, with the ability to pitch multiple innings and still able to be stretched out enough to supply spot starts, or fill-in should injuries or ineffectiveness arise.

"Some of those decisions depend on the makeup of our ballclub,'' said Francona, "not just now, but moving forward.''

That decision will come in the final weeks of spring training. But Tuesday, the Red Sox had to like what they saw from Aceves, however he might be utilized.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

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Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

BOSTON - Brian Johnson had quite a turnaround in his second time on Fenway Park's mound.

Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

The 26-year-old left-hander became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

"The last time I walked off the mound here was 2012 and I made two pitches," Johnson said. "Today I went nine innings. Today was pretty cool."

Johnson left Triple-A for a little over a month last season to get treatment for an anxiety issue.

"Obviously with some stuff that I've been gone through in my career, it's an awesome feeling" he said.

But despite the stellar outing, Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A after the game.

"That's the reality of the game," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We had a chance to congratulate him and yet option him back to Pawtucket, with David Price coming here Monday."

Brought up from the minors for the start, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. His only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

"Their guy threw the ball over the plate. He threw strikes," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I won't take anything away from what he did, but we're not swinging the bat very well."

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

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Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

BOSTON - Brian Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

Brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. The 26-year-old left-hander's only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHPs Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, both on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, threw bullpen sessions. Hernandez said he "felt really good."... LHP James Paxton (strained forearm) is set to come off the DL and pitch at home Wednesday.

Red Sox: Pedroia was back at second base after getting Friday off to rest his sore left knee and not play on a wet field. He was hit by a pitch on the right forearm his first time up and went 1 for 3. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the DL with a sprained right knee, was expected to play nine innings Saturday night in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager John Farrell didn't rule out that he could be activated next week.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman (1-2, 6.30 ERA) gave up 10 runs and 14 hits over four innings in a 10-1 loss Tuesday at Washington.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (3-4, 4.35) has gone at least six innings in eight of nine starts.