Versatile Aceves making decision tough for Valentine

585650.jpg

Versatile Aceves making decision tough for Valentine

FORT MYERS, Fla. Alfredo Aceves is presenting Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine with a dilemma: Finding a spot for the versatile right-hander.

Right now Aceves is penciled in as the fifth starter. But after proving to be one of the most reliable bullpen arms last season, its difficult for Valentine to determine what Aceves ultimate role will be or for how long.

Its a relatively new situation for Valentine.

I havent had many pitchers like Aceves, Valentine said. Cant tell you that I reach back into that experience jar and pull one of them out. I havent had as many pitchers as talented as he is who is as versatile as he is. Had versatile guys without exceptional talent, and thats why they become versatile, like I was a versatile player.

Aceves has always expressed his desire to be in the rotation, but he has also said that he is willing to do what is best for the team.

He started a B game Thursday against the Twins, and followed Daniel Bard to the mound Tuesday against the Orioles. Aceves threw two perfect innings Tuesday, with two strikeouts.

Aceves looked like it was just a day at the beach for him, Valentine said. He was throwing the ball well, and hit his spots, and used more pitches, and different type pitches than Daniel did. They all seemed to be pretty effective.

Last season, Aceves made 55 appearances for the Sox, with four starts, spanning 114 innings all career highs. He posted a record of 10-2, with two saves and a 2.61 ERA. Valentine liked what he saw.

He seemed to be able to attack different types of hitters in a variety of ways, Valentine said. Thats what jumped out at me. And then I saw it was pretty good stuff that he was featuring doing that. And then Ive heard about him and watched him.

Hes almost like a pitching savant kind of guy. He seems to have a great feel for his craft, innate almost. He sees things other guys dont see, I think.

While Aceves is making Valentines job easy for now saying and doing all the right things eventually the task will get more difficult.

Aceves is a very valuable asset, but it becomes a quandary after a while, a personal dilemma, Valentine said. But between me and him, probably our pitching coach and him, the group and him. Its great to have him. Keep him healthy, thats the key.

Valentine is not totally sold on that notion of informing pitchers in spring training of their precise roles, he said. Besides, those roles can change throughout the course of a season.

If I thought that all the answers that Im seeking would be discovered by April 5, then I didnt learn anything from the other 24 years that I tried to do this job, he said. I dont do a timetable on it. Sometimes things take more time to develop and to try to have Opening Day, the 29th of March, the 15th of May, any one of those days be the determining factor isnt fair to the situation or the individuals.

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.

MORE: Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.

“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.

“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”

While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.

So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.

The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.

Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.

“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.

“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”

So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.

The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold. 

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

red_sox_hanley_ramirez_062317.jpg

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which David Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.