Valentine: Aceves' extra work due to lack of options


Valentine: Aceves' extra work due to lack of options

ANAHEIM -- On another night, Bobby Valentine might have had other options to get the final six outs of a game in which the Red Sox led by a run.

But Tuesday night, according to the manager, there weren't many -- if any alternatives -- to Alfredo Aceves.

The choice proved ill-fated when, after retiring the side in order in the eighth, Aceves allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth, costing the Sox their lead and the game, a 6-5 walkoff loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

"There wasn't much choice," said Valentine. "I don't know what else I could have done."

Valentine then looked at an index card that details relievers' recent workloads and read the information.

"(Andrew) Bailey wasn't pitching (after pitching four times in the last five games)," said Valentine. "(Vicente) Padilla's pitched four of the last five games. (Mark) Melancon's pitched four out of six. There really wasn't anybody tonight except maybe (Junichi) Tazawa, who still needed an extra day.

"I don't think the (Angels) matched up with (lefty Andrew) Miller. (Clayton) Mortensen pitched in three of five days and warmed up the other days twice."

Aceves, who rejoined the team Tuesday following a three-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, got the first out in the ninth, then hit Erick Aybar on the knee and walked pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo, batting ninth.

With two on and one out, Aceves got ahead of Mike Trout with two straight inside fastballs. He then tried a third, only to have Trout muscle a broken-bat single up the middle, scoring Aybar with the tying run as Callaspo took third.

"We've been showing him a lot of (pitches) away," said catcher Ryan Lavarnway of Trout, "both this series and the last series. We thought we could beat him up-and-in with the heater. We broke his bat, shattered it, but he's a strong kid. He got it out of the infield just enough."

"It's tough," said Clay Buchholz, who was in position to claim the win. "You never want to lose a game in the bottom of the ninth. But it happens every day."

For Aceves, who declined to speak with reporters after the game, it was his eighth blown save and ninth loss of the season.

Kelly's a potential weapon in the Red Sox bullpen

Kelly's a potential weapon in the Red Sox bullpen

Joe Kelly’s ascent to the eighth inning has been pretty darn rapid.

Tyler Thornburg’s questionable right shoulder and the loss of other relievers elsewhere -- remember Koji Uehera, now of the World Champion Cubs? -- have thrown him into the spotlight.

That doesn’t make Kelly anything close to a certainty, though.

Entering spring training, even Craig Kimbrel, one of the very best closers around, faced some doubt after control flare-ups a year ago.

In Kelly, the Sox have an overpowering righty who couldn’t harness his stuff in the past. Someone who conspired with Clay Buchholz in making the Red Sox rotation look dismal midseason.

Kelly’s ineffectiveness last year, in fact, was one of the reasons they traded for Drew Pomeranz on July 14. And, logically, one of the reasons the Red Sox did not want to subsequently rescind the trade for Pomeranz.

The last start Kelly made with the Red Sox (and possibly in his big-league career) was on June 1 against the Orioles. He allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings and was immediately demoted.

He didn’t make it back to Boston until late July.

The best reasons to believe in Kelly now, in Thornburg’s absence, are straightforward: he was awesome at the end of last year, and he is overpowering.

In an eye-opening September, he held hitters to a .180 average in 14 innings. He gave up one earned run, carrying a 0.64 ERA, struck out 20 and walked just three.

That’s awesome potential.

He’s always had that, if nothing else, though: potential. What’s to say Kelly lives up to it? He might. There’s just not a lot to hang your hat on.

In eight innings this spring, Kelly has as many walks, seven, as he does strikeouts.

“The point we’re trying to stress to him, no one in this game is perfect,” Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Monday, including the Boston Herald. “He doesn’t have to be perfect with every pitch located. He has premium stuff. Trust it, and get ahead in the count a little bit more frequently.”

Early in spring training, Kelly talked about how he was still learning on the job, as you’d expect. That’s going to continue to be the case, and he'll continue to have to prove he's at last arrived.

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

Blake Swihart wasn't going to win a job. Monday merely made that official.

Swihart was optioned out as the Red Sox made further cuts, sending a player who could still be the Red Sox catcher of the future -- well, one of them anyway -- to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he's expected to work on his receiving.

Swihart hit .325 in 40 Grapefruit League at-bats.

"Had a very strong camp and showed improvements defensively. Swung the bat very well," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida.  "For the player that he is and the person that he is, you love him as a person. He's a hell of a talented player.

"He made some subtle adjustments with his setup [defensively]. That gave him a different look to pitchers on the mound. Pitchers talked positively about the look that they got from him behind the plate. I think it softened his hands somewhat to receive the ball better. And there were a number of occasions where he was able to get a pitchers' pitch called for a strike, so the presentation of the umpire was a little bit more subtle and consistent then maybe years' past."

Sandy Leon's hot hitting in 2016 earned him an automatic crack at the lead catching spot for this year. Combined with the fact that Christian Vazquez looks great defensively, went deep on Sunday and is out of options, Swihart was the obvious odd man out.

He had options, the others didn't.

Deven Marrero was also optioned to Pawtucket. Sam Travis -- who, like Swihart, could break camp with the 2018 team -- was reassigned to minor-league camp, as was catcher Dan Butler.

The Sox have 38 players left in camp, 32 from the 40-man roster.