Notes: Aceves again proves worth out of pen

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Notes: Aceves again proves worth out of pen

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

BALTIMORE -- For the last few weeks, as the Red Sox starting rotation has faltered, Terry Francona has resisted inserting Alfreo Aceves into the rotation, reasoning that the swingman is more valuable pitching multiple times out of the bullpen each week rather than just one spot start every five games.

Tuesday night, Aceves helped prove Francona's point.

With starter Erik Bedard lifted after just 3 13 innings, Aceves was brought into the game in the fourth and took the Sox though the seventh, contributing 3 23 innings of one-run ball on three hits.

He threw 36 pitches -- 27 for strikes -- and worked tirelessly, getting the Sox from Bedard to Daniel Bard, their eighth-inning man.

"He's done it time and time again," said an appreciative Francona. "He's so valuable doing what he's doing."

Aceves doesn't rattle easily and his aggressive approach, as the outs piled up, gave the game the feel of a postseason contest.

"All this last month is like preparing ourselves for the playoffs," he said. "It's not like you turn a switch and say 'Let's go.' But tonight was the same idea, same concept I've had all year."

"We thought about leaving him in and finishing it out," said Francona, "but because he's so resilient, we'll probably have him available Wednesday. And chances are, we'll probably need him."

Aceves guessed that he would be available, too.

"If I wake up tomorrow," he said with a smile, "I'm good to go."

Jarrod Saltalamacchia thought he could start Tuesday night after taking a foul ball off the collarbone Monday night, but Terry Francona decided to play it safe and start Ryan Lavarnway.

"Saltalamacchia came out early and threw the ball OK," said Francona before the game. "But he's really sore. If we start him and he can't go, we've got Jason Varitek who is really hurting, a kid who hasn't been catching at all Luis Exposito and with Lavarnway as our only guy.

"If we start Ryan, he's good against left-hand pitching, and we can go to Salty later with a chance to loosen up. I just think it makes some sense."

The move certainly paid off, as Lavarnway hit two home runs in the Red Sox' 8-7 victory.

"I'm definitely available," said Saltalamacchia. "It's gotten better. I went and out and threw. It's stiff and sore. But I'm available. I'm able to play.

"I definitely want to be in there. But at the same time, I want to make sure I'm 100 percent. I don't want to go out there and hurt the team. I need to be 100 percent and I need to be able to perform. I feel like I can perform, but if it takes today to be 100 percent Wednesday, then that's what I'll do."

Francona said Varitek, who was hit on the right knee in the fifth inning Sunday, is still "really sore."

The Sox had Jed Lowrie hitting cleanup for the first time all season, sandwiched between two lefty hitters -- David Ortiz third and Adrian Gonzalez fifth.

"They've got a bundle of lefty guys down in their bullpen," said Francona of the Orioles, "and they're certainly willing to match up."

Ortiz hitting ahead of Gonzalez is something of a change for the Sox.

"Sometimes, I think David can use the protection more than Gonzie," said Francona.

Francona continued to avoid talking about who would start a play-in game Thursday in St. Petersburg, though it seems likely that assignment would go to John Lackey, who would be pitching on three days' rest.

"Some of that would obviously be determined how we get there," said Francona.

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

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

MORE RED SOX

At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it. 

Perez's eighth-inning slam, after three walks, lifts Royals over Red Sox, 6-4

Perez's eighth-inning slam, after three walks, lifts Royals over Red Sox, 6-4

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Salvador Perez borrowed a Miguel Cabrera bat from Kansas City Royals teammate Drew Butera for the first time Wednesday.

"It's a magic stick," Butera said.

It was magic for Perez, who hit his first career grand slam, connecting in the eighth inning to rally the Royals over the Boston Red Sox 6-4.

"Miggy gave the bat to Butera when Detroit was playing here," Perez said. "Drew doesn't use it. It's too heavy for him. Today, coming into the clubhouse, I put it in my locker. I like the bat.

"Today was the first day I used it and I'll use it Friday, too, before you ask me. I don't want to break that one. I've got to call Miggy and say, `You've got to send me some more bats.'"

The Royals have won nine of 11 and moved within a game of .500.

Perez homered over the Kansas City bullpen in left field on the ninth pitch from Robby Scott (0-1). With Boston leading 4-2, reliever Matt Barnes started the inning by walking Jorge Bonifacio and Lorenzo Cain on 12 pitches.

"We uncharacteristically lost the strike zone," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "For a group that has been so good at not issuing too many walks over the course of the year, we had an inning that got away from us. Matt was up in the zone. He couldn't get the ball down.

"This one stings because that group has been so good, so consistent for the better part of the whole season."

Scott was summoned to face Eric Hosmer, but walked him on four pitches to load the bases for Perez. The All-Star catcher fouled off three full-count deliveries before hitting his 15th home run of the season.

"I was happy with where the pitch was, but it was too good," Scott said. "There's not much else to say about it."

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Perez was the first Kansas City player to hit a grand slam in the eighth inning or later with the Royals trailing since Frank White in 1986. Perez went 3 for 3 in the win.

Jorge Soria (3-2) worked a spotless eighth. Kelvin Herrera pitched the ninth for his 17th save in 19 chances.

Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts hit successive home runs in the Boston fourth off Ian Kennedy.

Benintendi's drive was estimated at 454 feet and landed in the right-center waterfall. The leadoff homer was Boston's first hit, and the 100th of Benintendi's career.

Five pitches later, Bogaerts went deep to left, tying the score at 2. It was the fourth time this season the Red Sox have hit back-to-back home runs.

"I tried to go inside and the ball just ran back over," Kennedy said of the homers.

Red Sox lefty Drew Pomeranz worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs and six hits.

Kennedy was removed after 4 2/3 innings, giving up four runs, two earned, three hits and three walks. He has just one victory in his past 17 starts.

Errors by Kennedy and first baseman Cheslor Cuthbert helped Boston score twice in the fifth.

ORTIZ'S CEREMONY

The Red Sox will retire David Ortiz's No. 34 in a pregame ceremony Friday at Fenway Park. "When you consider the careers that are on that facade, the numbers that are up there and the fact that his being done so soon after retiring, I think speaks volumes," Farrell said. "What he's meant to the city, what he's meant to the organization. To see him at the ballpark, see the smile, to hear the booming voice, it will be a good day for us."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia missed his third straight game with rib soreness after being hit by a pitch Sunday. "When he went down to swing in the cage, there's still some restriction," Farrell said. "Hopefully he'll be back in the lineup Friday." ... LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (right knee subluxation) will throw a 30-pitch two-inning simulated game Saturday.

Royals: RHP Nathan Karns (forearm strain) threw off a flat surface, his first time tossing since having a setback 11 days ago. ... LHP Danny Duffy (oblique strain) will throw a bullpen session Friday and could begin a minor league rehab stint next week.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: After a day off Thursday, RHP Rick Porcello will start Friday against the Angels.

Royals: RHP Jakob Junis will start Friday against the Blue Jays.