Attempting to rebound from a miserable and distraction-filled 2012 season, many fans hoped Boston Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves would come to spring training with a fresh perspective. Instead, he started 2013 off on the wrong foot by clashing with coaches while pitching live batting practice Sunday.
The right-handed Aceves took the mound to throw batting practice to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jonny Gomes and Mauro Gomez. Such sessions are important for pitchers, as they build up arm strength in preparation for their first game action of the spring.
WEEI’s Alex Speier reported that Aceves’ actions baffled coaches and spectators alike.
He simply lobbed the ball during his first 15 pitches before being asked separately by Triple-A coach Rich Sauveur and new manager John Farrell if he was all right. Although he indicated he was fine, he continued his lackluster throwing.
The Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber reported that only when pitching coach Juan Nieves visited the mound and spoke with him in Spanish did the pitcher pick up the pace. He threw 12 pitches at normal speed before walking off the field and speaking again with Farrell and Nieves.
Speier wrote about Farrell’s unhappiness with the session. The skipper was tight-lipped, but he did acknowledge the situation, per the WEEI report: “The one thing I’ll say about that is that he didn’t go through the drill as intended and we’ve addressed it. He’s healthy and it’s been addressed.”
According to Lauber, Aceves was upbeat when asked if he was pleased with the outcome of his throwing session, saying, "Of course. Of course. We get through a lot of work coming through spring training. I’m pretty satisfied with today."
Aceves was a revelation in 2011, his first season in Boston after coming over after three years with the New York Yankees. Pitching primarily in relief, he went 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA in 55 games (four starts), often pitching multiple innings or consecutive games at a time.
Named the team’s closer last year following an injury to Andrew Bailey, Aceves started out strongly before bombing down the stretch. He finished just 2-10 with a 5.26 ERA and 25 saves in 69 relief appearances.
He had a 6.47 ERA in the second half of last season and made headlines by earning a three-game suspension following a clubhouse argument with then-manager Bobby Valentine.
He also got into a heated argument in the dugout with teammate Dustin Pedroia during a game last September.
Despite the volatility, Farrell said on WEEI’s radio Red Sox Hot Stove Show this past offseason that he was willing to give Aceves a fresh start.
Aceves may be perceived as hot-headed, but some, including national baseball blogger Jen Royle, were surprised by his recent clash with the Boston coaching staff:
I covered Aceves with the Yankees for three years… and I can’t recall his work ethic, attitude or personality ever being an issue #RedSox— Jen Royle (@Jen_Royle) February 17, 2013
The Red Sox should have one of the deepest bullpens in baseball this season. Aceves was far from guaranteed a roster spot before his recent antics, and he is not doing himself any favors by stepping out of line.
He has thrust himself under a microscope without having yet appeared in his first spring training game. With the Red Sox placing increased emphasis on a positive clubhouse culture this season, his future with the team is currently balancing on a razor’s edge.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference