Notes: Aceves strong in second start

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Notes: Aceves strong in second start

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

DETROIT Alfredo Aceves had one reason to join the Red Sox, which he did as a free agent in February.

They have a huge, huge, huge opportunity to win the World Series, he said after Thursdays game in Detroit.

The Red Sox had one main reason to sign him.

We got him as a depth starter, said manager Terry Francona. He can certainly pitch out of the bullpen because he can pitch. But this was the main reason he was signed.

Whether or not the Sox win the World Series this year remains to be seen. But Aceves, in his last two outings, has given them what they were looking for: A chance to win when he pitches.

In his second start since Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey went on the disabled list, Aceves went six innings, giving up one run on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts to earn the win as the Sox pummeled the Tigers, 14-1. In his two fill-in starts he has gone a combined 11 innings, giving up two runs on eight hits and five walks with six strikeouts.

With the win, improving to 2-0 with a 2.22 ERA. (He did not factor in the decision in his first start, May 21 against the Cubs. He left after the fifth with the Sox leading, 2-1, only to have the bullpen implode in the eighth for eight runs.)

He threw strikes. He changed speeds. I thought he followed catcher Jason Varitek real well, Francona said. Looked to me like he only shook him off one time, which to me, when 'Teks catching is always a good thing. And they were on the same page. His pitches are good slider, fastball, changeup. But I thought he followed Tek real well.

Aceves and Varitek appeared to be in sync better in this game, with the right-hander shaking off his catcher much less.

Hes real good, Aceves said of Varitek. Hes been in the league for . . . a long time. I trust him.

Aceves and Varitek are still getting used to each other.

It was much better and we were in a much better rhythm than the start against the Cubs, Varitek said. It helps the people behind you play better when that happens.

But theres a combo. Hes been successful for a reason because of his stuff, and today was a day that we took some steps in that learning process.

Making his seventh career start Thursday, Aceves was staked to a five-run lead after the second inning, cruising through his outing. The first time through the Tigers lineup, the most he fell behind was a two-ball count to Don Kelly in the first inning before striking out the Tigers No. 2 hitter on an 89-mph cutter.

The lone run he allowed came in the fourth inning. Aceves opened the inning hitting Brennan Boesch with a pitch. Miguel Cabrera followed that with a single before Victor Martinez grounded into a fielders choice, erasing Cabrera. After Jhonny Peralta popped out to Drew Sutton for the second out, Alex Avila singled to left, scoring Boesch.

Three of Aceves six strikeouts ended innings with runners on base.

Yeah, and with a lot of different pitches, Varitek said. And different tilts on his fastball. His curveball. We used his changeup. But he did a real god job today.

With the win, Aceves extended his streak major league-best streak of wins in his last 12 decisions. This was Aceves first win in that streak that came as a starter. His 11 wins as a reliever was the longest in the American League since Jesse Crain had 11 in a row for the Twins from Sept. 1, 2004 July 1, 2005.

Aceves is pleased with his two starts. But thats only part of it.

Im happy every day, he said. Im happy every day. If Im alive Im happy. Im going to start with that.

David Ortiz went 2-for-3, extending his hit streak to eight games. He is hitting .457 (16-for-35) in that stretch.

Jason Varitek went 1-for-5, extending his hit streak to six games. He is batting .318 (7-for-22) in that stretch. It is his longest streak since he hit in nine straight games from April 21May 4, 2006.

Before Crawfords two-triple game, Jacoby Ellsbury was the last Sox batter to do so, on June 23, 2009.

Before Crawfords back-to-back four-hit games, Dustin Pedroia was the last Sox player to do so, on Aug. 29 and 30, 2008.

Outfielder Daniel Nava cleared waivers and was out righted to Pawtucket.

Right-hander BobbyJenks, sidelined since May 2 because of a right biceps strain, isscheduled to throw an inning with about 20-25 pitches for PawtucketFriday in the game against Indianapolis at McCoy Stadium. If the outinggoes well, he will pitch another inning Sunday and is likely to beactivated early next week.

Lackey, on the DL since May 12 with a right elbowstrain, is scheduled to throw a simulated game Friday before his rehabstart with Pawtucket on Tuesday.

Matsuzaka, on the DL with a right elbow strain since May 17, isstill on schedule to see Dr. Lewis Yokum in Los Angeles on May 31 onhis way back from Japan, where he is for personalreasons.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

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.