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.