Aceves gets job done for Sox in spot start

Aceves gets job done for Sox in spot start
May 28, 2013, 12:15 am
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BOSTON – So, apparently the reports of Alfredo Aceves’ demise were greatly exaggerated. Or a little premature, at the very least.
Aceves was demoted April 24 to Triple-A Pawtucket, a day after he gave up eight runs (seven earned) in 3 1/3 innings to the A’s at Fenway Park. And while manager John Farrell said at that time the decision was strictly performance-based – a record of 1-1, with a an ERA of 8.66 in five outings can certainly justify that – there were on-going off-field issues, such as Aceves’ questioning after his last start why his teammates didn’t provide much offense for him.
At that point, many observers hypothesized that he would never again be seen in a Red Sox uniform. But, after going 2-1 with a 3.13 ERA in four starts for the PawSox, Aceves was called up Friday to take a roster spot when Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks were placed on the disabled list.
Aceves, who likely would have been sent back on Tuesday with left-hander Franklin Morales being activated from the disabled list, pitched a scoreless inning that night and was pressed into a spot start Monday against the Phillies when Clay Buchholz, the scheduled starter, was scratched with inflammation in the AC joint of his right shoulder.
It was a chance for Aceves to redeem himself.
“He took tonight as an opportunity to make an impression,” Farrell said. “He made a solid one. Right from coming out of the bullpen the way he attacked the strike zone. When you compare it to the game against Oakland here, it’s a night-and-day difference with the overall approach. I think it was reflected in the tempo and the pace that he set and his willingness to work a little bit quicker. And every pitch had a little bit more intent to it.”
Aceves has been an enigma for much of the past two seasons. And now he is likely to have the Red Sox again wondering what they have in him. He earned the win Monday night, going six innings, giving up one run on seven hits and three walks with four strikeouts and a home run, as the Sox beat the Phillies, 9-3, in the first of four straight games against Philadelphia.
With the scoreless ninth inning he pitched on Friday – giving up a hit with one strikeout – Aceves has lowered his major league ERA to 6.57, improving his record to 2-1. In 20 career Interleague outings, including three starts, he is 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA. He has given up just three runs in 23 innings over 14 appearances (one start) against the National League East in his career.
The lone run he gave up Monday night came on a home run by Erik Kratz, the Phillies’ No. 9 hitter, in the third inning. Aceves pitched into and out of jams in every inning, but, other than the third, managed to get out unscathed – with the help of three double plays, including two of the inning-ending variety.
Aceves threw 93 pitches, 58 for strikes. His 62 percent strike rate was better than all but one of his major league outings this season, when he threw 77 percent strikes in his first appearance of the season on April 3 in Yankee Stadium. In his three other starts this season he had a combined strike rate of 60 percent.
Aceves, though, was not in the Sox clubhouse to talk about his performance. It appeared his locker had been cleared of personal belongings, potentially signaling a return to Pawtucket.
“There’s no move at this point,” Farrell said. “We did talk about Franklin being available for us [Tuesday]. That move has not been finalized yet. So there’s some things coming in the next day or so.”
But, on this night, Aceves gave the Red Sox what they needed.
“Solid work for us,” Farrell said. “I think the biggest key was his pace and his tempo. After each pitch he got back on the mound. Our defense felt the flow of the game, we played exceptional defense. Number of groundball double plays . . . just the overall flow of the game that started with Ace was very good tonight.”
Despite having runners on base every inning.
“He didn’t give in,” Farrell said. “I think he and [catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia] went to his split on occasion, went to his cutter to get some outs when needed. Biggest thing was he erased three base runners with three double plays that we did turn. He didn’t create any more issue by adding a walk in between a hit or two. So, it was just his use of his late-action pitches, his split and his cutter, that he’d get off his fastball with.”
Saltalamacchia has caught each of Aceves’ four major league starts this season.
“I thought he did a great job,” Saltalamacchia said. “He gave us the boost that we needed. We needed a guy to go out there and give us some innings, give the bullpen a little rest, obviously give Buck a rest. But he did a great job. His stuff wasn’t as sharp as it’s been in the past, but for coming in and making a start like that, he did great.
“We were definitely on the same page. We were working well. I don’t think he shook me once, which is a little different than what we’re used to. But he still had a good cutter going, good fastball, his curveball wasn’t as sharp as it’s usually been. But when you throw strikes it’s effective.”
Saltalamacchia has worked with Aceves since the right-hander joined the Sox in 2011. Getting a spot start and – more important – a chance to redeem himself didn’t seem to overwhelm Aceves.
“Ace is a different guy,” Saltalamacchia said. “Nothing really bothers him too much. He looked the same. His temperament was the same. It wasn’t like he was over anxious or not ready. It looked like he was out there with a purpose and he did a good job.”
Where Aceves will be doing that job next remains to be seen.