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."

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

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Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.

Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

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Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

BOSTON - The way Chris Sale and the Boston relievers were pitching, the Red Sox didn't need to score a lot.

Sale went 6 1/3 overpowering innings with nine strikeouts, Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the third straight game and the Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 on Monday in a matchup of two of the AL's top teams.

"When you've got him on the mound, all you need is a couple and he's going to do the rest," Moreland said. "Obviously, tonight was another example of that."

Dustin Pedroia had two hits and drove in a run and Moreland added a sacrifice fly for Boston, which kept pace with the New York Yankees atop the East.

The Red Sox started fast, grabbing a 2-0 lead just four batters into the first.

"When the guys score early for you, it's nice," Sale said. "It settles you down a little bit and allows you to throw strikes."

Coming off a three-game sweep in Cleveland that had jumped them over the Indians into first in the Central, the Twins' offense was stymied by Sale and three relievers. The loss coupled with Cleveland's win over Texas moved the Indians back a half-game ahead.

Sale (10-3) gave up one run and four hits, increasing his major-league strikeout total to 155. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 21st save after Matt Barnes struck out three in the eighth. Heath Hembree faced one batter, getting a double play.

The 6-foot-6 Sale relied on his usual sharp-breaking slider and fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s to fan eight over the first six innings, getting the initial half dozen with his breaking pitch.

"It's what we've seen many times. He had a nice mix," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think the biggest trouble we had was with that slider, especially down and in to righties."

Jose Berrios (7-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. Chris Gimenez had a solo homer for Minnesota.

"When you go against a guy like Chris Sale, you try to give 110 percent," Berrios said through a translator.

Boston jumped ahead when Moreland homered into the first row of Green Monster seats after the first run scored on a double-play grounder.

Berrios had given up just two runs in each of his previous four starts, and six of eight since being promoted on May 7.

Gimenez's homer completely left Fenway Park over the Monster.