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.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.