Boston Red Sox fans, meet Alfredo Aceves.
The more Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield struggle in spring training, the more likely it becomes that Aceves could be counted on as the club’s No. 5 starter when the regular season gets under way.
Aceves pitched for the New York Yankees for the last three seasons and was a significant contributor to their championship team in 2009. Over the course of those three years, he was 14-1 with a 3.21 ERA (including 10-1, with a 3.54 ERA, in ’09).
But last year, he struggled to get healthy due to a balky back, and it has been said that his manager, coaches and teammates all questioned how badly he wanted to play. Then he suffered an injury to his left clavicle in a bike-riding accident in Mexico in late November.
He underwent surgery on the last day of November, and the initial prognosis was that he would miss more than four months. The Yankees non-tendered him, and he soon found himself looking for a new employer.
He was eventually signed by the Red Sox early last month for the bargain-basement price of $650,000 (with $100,000 in incentives built into the contract). It was one of those deals that flies under the radar for most fans, but it was immediately apparent to me that Aceves could be just what the doctor ordered for the Red Sox in 2011—and beyond.
The native of Sonora, Mexico, fits the mold of what the ballclub has been lacking since trading Justin Masterson to the Cleveland Indians at the trading deadline back in 2009.
Aceves can start or relieve, he can pitch several innings or be the setup man and he has something of a rubber arm and can therefore be used on successive days.
The Red Sox tried to re-acquire Masterson from the Tribe for much of the winter. When it became apparent they would not be able to obtain “Mr. Clean,” they determined Aceves was a worthwhile gamble.
The initial thinking was that he would be sent to Triple-A Pawtucket to get healthy, build his endurance and serve as an insurance policy for the bullpen and starting rotation.
He has been healthy since arriving in Fort Myers, and he has pitched so well that he is pressing the front office and coaching staff to reconsider the original plan.
Last night, he faced a Yankees lineup that consisted mostly of minor leaguers (the Yanks only had regulars Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher make the trip down from Tampa). Again, he provided the club with a strong outing—allowing just one run on three hits over three innings (he walked one and struck out one).
Furthermore, he has handled himself with class, eschewing the temptation to be critical of his old club (a la Bobby Jenks) and taking the high road.
Of the Yankees' decision to release him, he says, “It’s not in my hands, that decision. [As players], we do the best we can do, out there on the field, but that decision is not in our hands.”
Not exactly bulletin-board material.
But as time goes by, it is becoming more apparent that Aceves may get the chance to make some headlines when the games count for something.