Farrell gets first test from mercurial Aceves

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Farrell gets first test from mercurial Aceves

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."

A hungry ballplayer: Ex-Sox prospect Moncada once ate 85 Twinkies a week

A hungry ballplayer: Ex-Sox prospect Moncada once ate 85 Twinkies a week

This isn’t your average young and hungry player on the brink of the big leagues.

Yoan Moncada, the ex-Red Sox prospect who was one of the principal pieces in the trade for Chris Sale, ate 85 Twinkies in a week, his agent told ESPN The Magazine

David Hastings, Moncada's agent, clarified to CSNNE that this was a one-time thing when Moncada first arrived in the U.S. Moncada had never had Twinkies before, Hastings said, so he was like "a kid in a candy store."

He's still in great shape. Moncada had a huge spring training with the White Sox after a disappointing major-league debut with Boston in September. 

The 21-year-old third baseman has been optioned out of big-league camp, so he’s slated to start the year in Triple-A. But he hit .317 with a .391 on-base percentage and .683 slugging percentage and 3 home runs in 41 at-bats — some of the best numbers anywhere.

Moncada took a $31.5 million signing bonus from the Red Sox, money that the Sox turned into Sale. Moncada, meanwhile, didn’t exactly invest every cent.

Twinkies weren’t his only indulgence. 

More from the story: 

Moncada had money to spend on drones, video games, toys and clothes. He sometimes spent $1,500 or more during nights out, David says. After he purchased the second $200,000 car, Josefa [Hastings, David’s wife] tried to talk some sense into him.

Hastings reinforced to CSNNE that the message to Moncada was to invest in things that appreciate in value.

Drellich: Bogaerts should start season in second half of lineup

Drellich: Bogaerts should start season in second half of lineup

The Red Sox need to let their lineup sort itself out a bit, and really, need to see how one core player in particular fares: Xander Bogaerts. 
 
Until then, Red Sox manager John Farrell should try to alternate right- and left-handed hitters as much as possible against right-handed pitching
 
If Thursday’s Grapefruit League lineup indeed winds up as a preview for the regular season, Farrell’s on the right track.
 
1. Dustin Pedroia 2B
2. Andrew Benintendi LF
3. Mookie Betts RF
4. Hanley Ramirez DH
5. Mitch Moreland 1B
6. Xander Bogaerts SS
7. Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
8. Pablo Sandoval 3B
9. Blake Swihart C
 
Sandy Leon or Christian Vazquez should be at catcher normally, rather than Swihart. (If Leon shows he can in fact hit again, the Sox could also decide to put Jackie Bradley Jr. in the nine-hole.)
 
"Maybe a first look at our lineup," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida. "I'm not saying this is Opening Day, but this is potential for one on Opening Day. And just to get everybody back in the rhythm. We've kind of fragmented because of the WBC and because of travel and bouncing around the state. To get our camp finally together, I think we're all looking forward to these last remaining games."
 
Betts is the best all-around producer the Red Sox have. He should be in the three-hole, despite chatter than Andrew Benintendi might be a fit.
 
But Bogaerts’ success will determine a lot of the flexibility available to Farrell. (Yes, everybody has to be healthy for the above statement to be true. And remember, lineups are important, but probably not as important as we’ve all been raised to believe). 

If Bogaerts plays like he did in the first half, when he batted .329 en route to an All-Star appearance, he could easily slide into the three-hole, and push Betts into the second or fourth spot. Or even leadoff.
 
If Bogaerts is the .253 hitter he was after the All-Star break, well, the second half of the lineup is where he belongs. 
 
Bogaerts is, ultimately, better than he showed as both he and the season wore down. But let him establish himself in a groove before you start loading up the top of the lineup with right-handed hitters, thereby giving opposing managers a clear path for righty relievers.
 
(The Red Sox could pinch hit Chris Young at any time, but you’re usually not taking out one of your best players just for a platoon advantage.)
 
And from another perspective, you almost need Bogaerts in the second half of the lineup. Because what else is there?
 
Say the Sox load all four right-handed hitters at the top.
 
1. Pedroia
2. Bogaerts
3. Betts
4. Ramirez 
 
That’s awesome. Then what? Benintendi and cross your fingers? Benintendi seems as sure a thing as any sophomore — well, technically a rookie — can be. But still.
 
This is where Moreland and Sandoval represent other X-factors. All spring, there’s been talk of how Fenway Park and a use-all-fields approach will benefit Moreland. That may be so — but to what extent? How much better can he reasonably be? The Sox are internally encouraged.
 
As it stands now, however, there’s no obvious choice to protect Ramirez, considering Moreland is coming off a season where he had a .293 on-base percentage against righties.
 
And with Sandoval, whether he’s anything more than a wet napkin vs. left-handed pitching is to be seen. There’s reason to believe he can handle right-handed pitchers at least adequately, so he'll get the start — but he could be the first guy pinch hit for nightly.