PawSox notes: Aceves gets Opening Night start

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PawSox notes: Aceves gets Opening Night start

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

PAWTUCKET, RI As the Opening Night starter for the Pawtucket Red Sox Thursday against Rochester, Alfredo Aceves knows whats expected of him.

Its an honor, he said. And a responsibility, too.

After making his first major league Opening Day roster last season, with the Yankees, no one could fault him if he was disappointed at not making the big-league team this year. Aceves, who still has options, was among the last roster moves, getting sent down the day before the Red Sox opened their season.

In 10 Grapefruit League games he had a record on 0-1 with one save and a 4.05 ERA, allowing six earned runs, with 13 hits, including two home runs, with three walks and four strikeouts in 13 13 innings. In 10 games with the Yankees last year, he was 3-0 (3.00). But a strained lower back limited him to 12 big-league games. A rehab stint was cut short after seven appearances and he was shut down for the season. An offseason biking accident left him with a broken left (non-throwing) collarbone. Hes healthy now, but feels he could have had a better showing in spring training.

My spring training, no, I couldnt have it better, but I was focused on other things, he said. And I live and learn. So I learn from that. Its not going to happen next year.

What was he focused on?

Showing the Red Sox that I was healthy, and working on the pitches, and not focus on numbers, he said. Maybe if I focus on numbers, I make the team. But I learn from that, from this spring training and its not going to happen next year.

I like his track record, said Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler. Hes been a very successful guy. He seems to be a real hard worker, very focused about what hes doing. Hes got a lot of ability. Hes proven it at the major league. So I expect him to be pretty successful at this level. Hopefully, we can enjoy him while we can.

Aceves will be opposed by Red Wings right-hander Anthony Swarzak, the Twins second-round pick in 2004.

The PawSox will have a club heavy with veterans and players with big-league experience, including 15 on the 24-man roster. That can only help Beyeler, he believes.

I hope it helps me a lot because we do have a lot of veteran leadership out there, Beyeler said. Im going to lean on those guys a lot to help me out, and batting coach Chili Davis and pitching coach Rich Sauveur and trainer Jon Jochim in the other room there to help these guys out.

The last thing I want to do is come in here and make guys uncomfortable and feel like theyre back in A ball again or something. I just want to stay out of the way and let them roll and let them do what they do here. Just get right into the realm of previous PawSox managers Torey Lovullo and Ron Johnson and the guys whove been here and keep things rolling. That, to me, is the best thing that can happen here.

Catcher Mike McKenry was acquired from Colorado for pitcher Daniel Turpen on March 29.

Very high-energy guy, Beyeler said. Blocks balls well. Above-average arm. Handles the pitching staff pretty good for a guy coming in that really doesnt know anybody. And swings the bat real good. Looks like hes a pretty strong kid. Seems to have a good idea of what hes doing. A pretty impressive kid.

Left-hander Felix Doubront, who was placed on the disabled list with March 31 with left forearm inflammation, remains in Fort Myers. Fla.

Outfielder Josh Reddick reported to McCoy Stadium Tuesday morning but was sick, with a possible strep infection, and was sent home. Driving to Pawtucket from Fort Myers, Reddick didnt feel well and stopped for medical attention.

Tip of the cap to Daniel Nava, who entertained onlookers before the PawSox workout Tuesday afternoon by borrowing a reporters tape recorder to interview his teammates. Have to admit, I wouldnt have thought to ask about singing with Enrique Iglesias (Jose Iglesias), hair care (Kyle Weiland), canoeing as an Olympic sport (Randy Williams, McKenry), or Fleetwood Mac vs. John Mayer (Aceves).

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Red Sox welcome Betts’ surprising power surge

Red Sox welcome Betts’ surprising power surge

BOSTON - With one quick flick of his wrists Monday night, Mookie Betts drove a pitch into the Monster Seats, marking his 30th homer of the season.

The homer put Betts into exclusive company in team history. Only two others before him -- Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro -- had ever reached the 30-homer milestone before turning 24. 

It's a reasonable assumption that, with five weeks still to play in the regular season, Betts will more than double his home run total (17) from last year, a remarkable jump.    

More to the point, Betts wasn't projected as a power hitter. In 2011 and 2012, Betts played the first 72 games of his pro career career without hitting a single homer. 

The power began to manifest itself somewhat the following year when he belted 15 homers between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem, but still, few envisioned that Betts would show this kind of power at the major league level.

He was athletic, with extra-base capability, and speed. But a 30-home run hitter? That wasn't in the cards.

"That's pretty cool, hitting 30,” allowed Betts after the Red Sox' 9-4 win over Tampa Bay. "But that's not the reason we play.''

 For several minutes, Betts did his best to deflect questions about his milestone, consistently emphasizing team goals "first and foremost” over his own personal achievements.

"Trying to affect the game in some form or fashion,” he shrugged. "We're in a race right now and that's way more important[than individual stats].”

Still, Betts himself acknowledged that his homer total has come as something of a revelation.

"I definitely wasn't expecting [this kind of] power,'' he said. "But I'll take it while it's here.''

Maybe the power explosion shouldn't come as a shock, however. Betts has always demonstrated exceptional strength and fast reflexes, exhibiting the sort of "quick-twitch'' athleticism that make scouts drool.

He's improved his pitch selection and recognition, and it surely hasn't hurt to be part of a powerful Red Sox lineup that currently has him hitting behind David Ortiz and in front of Hanley Ramirez.

"Experience...knowing when and when not to turn on balls,” Betts explained further. "There's a whole bunch of things that kind of go into it.”

As he's gained confidence, Betts now picks certain counts where he allows himself to take bigger swings, though he's careful to  point out that he's not ever trying to hit homers.

"Not necessarily trying to hit a home run,'' he offered, "but trying to drive [the ball]. Those things come with experience and knowing when and when not to. I'm not trying to hit a home run. They just kind of come.''

In this, just his second full season in the big leagues, they're coming more and more frequently -- whether anyone expected it or not.

     

Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

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Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

BOSTON -- Early in 2016 praises, were sung around the league that Xander Bogaerts was the best hitter in baseball.

Rightfully so. For a good portion of the season he led the league in both batting average and hits. But between Mookie Betts’ ascension and Bogaerts’ drop in average from .331 on 7/29 to .306 after Monday night’s game, he’s taken a back seat.

But the Red Sox shortstop’s month-long dry spell hasn’t been a straight decline. Although he was held hitless Monday, Bogaerts went 6-for-13 (.462) against Kansas City.

In fact, the 23-year-old doesn’t even consider the recent month of struggles the worst stretch of his career.

“2014 probably,” Bogaerts said, “yeah I had a terrible, terrible few months -- probably three months.”

That was of course the season a lot came into question surrounding the now All-Star shortstop, so he was pretty spot on. In 2014 Bogaerts went from hitting .304 through 5/31, to .248 by the end of June, .244 after his last game in July, all the way down to .224 by the last day of August.

Bogaerts would hit .313 that September and finish with a .240 average -- but more importantly, an appreciation of what he’d experienced.

“That definitely helped me become a better person, a better player -- and understanding from that and learning,” Bogaerts said.

From that experience, he gained a better understanding of the importance of maintaining a consistent day-to-day routine.

“That has to stay the same,” Bogaerts said without question in his voice. “The league adjusted, they adjusted to me. It kind of took a longer time to adjust to them. They’ve just been pitching me so differently compared to other years.”

Bogaerts has had the point reinforced to him throughout, with Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez serving as one voice of reinforcement.

“When you have a routine from the mental side, physical side, when you struggle that’s when you really need that,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been so good with his daily preparation, it doesn’t matter the result of the game. He can always go to something that feels comfortable.”

“He’s been so comfortable and confident with his daily routine and preparation that it allows him -- when he doesn’t get the results he wants in the game -- to have some peace knowing that the next day, we’re going to go back to doing that again.”

It’s clear Bogaerts needs to maintain his daily routine to help work through slumps -- and maintain hot streaks -- but Rodriguez made it clear, consistent preparation from a hitter doesn’t magically cure every problem.

“That doesn’t mean that because you stick with the routine you’re going to have results,” Rodriguez said. “What it means is, [because] you know and believe in that routine that you know you’re going to get out of it.”

Which means in addition to sticking to his normal routine, Bogaerts also had to identify flaws elsewhere in order work through his problems. He came to realize the problem was more mechanically based than mental -- given he’d done everything to address that.

“They pitched me differently, and some stuff I wanted to do with the ball I couldn’t do,” Bogaerts said. “I just continued doing it until I had to make the adjustment back.”

Bogaerts isn’t fully out of the dark, but he’s taken steps in the right direction of late -- and is nowhere near the skid he experienced in 2014. He and Rodriguez fully believe the All-Star’s ability to maintain a clear mind will carry him through whatever troubles he’s presented with the rest of the way.

“The more stuff you have in you’re head is probably not going to help your chances,” Bogaerts explained, “so have a clear mind -- but also have the trust in your swing that you’re going to put a good swing on [the pitch] regardless of whatever the count is.”

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.