Saturday, March 8, 2014
BOSTON - Nice of the Red Sox to get all those hits in a 9-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night.
But don't ignore the performance on the mound.
Alfredo Aceves has been the unpredictable one -- with his pitches and his personality.
His last start ended in the fourth inning, after allowing eight runs to Oakland on April 23. He had balked twice and failed to cover first base on a grounder to the right side. Manager John Farrell called the performance a lack of focus.
After that game, Aceves was dispatched to Triple-A Pawtucket. It would have shocked no one if Aceves never returned.
Yet there he was Monday, starting in place of Clay Buchholz, held out as a precaution after he felt irritation in his collarbone area.
A second chance for Aceves.
"When we sent him down, we challenged him to more consistently execute his stuff," Farrell said. "That meant getting ahead in the count more frequently being able to being able to take advantage of the secondary pitches he does have."
Job done. Aceves lasted six innings (seven hits, one run), throwing 93 pitches, 58 for strikes.
Of his 26 batters, he fell into a hitter's count (2-0 or 3-1) five times, but escaped damage. The one run he allowed was Erik Kratz's home run on a first-pitch fastball. For many batters, Aceves was ahead 0-1 or 1-2. He was free to use his split, cut fastball, curve and change-up.
Aceves issued two of his three walks in the sixth inning. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth when Jacoby Ellsbury ran down Freddy Galvis' line drive.
An in-control Aceves, whether spot starting or in relief, can only be a welcomed addition to the Red Sox.
By the way, Aceves did get a chance to cover first on a ground ball hit to first baseman Mike Napoli. But then Aceves dropped the ball.
On a cakewalk night like Monday, it was forgivable.
BUCHHOLZ THREW in the outfield before Monday's game and said he felt fine. Farrell concurred.
"We don't anticipate this being more than a couple of days before he's back on the mound for us," Farrell said. "The earliest would be Thursday."
CLOSER JONATHAN PAPELBON did not enter the game because of the rout. Papelbon, who signed with the Phillies after the 2011 season, was making his first return to Fenway in a Philadelphia uniform.
When he gets in, he is dominant (0.96 ERA, 9 of 9 in save opportunities). Papelbon said he is becoming more of a pitcher, "not just a thrower" trying to blow his fastball by people.
Farrell, who used to be Papelbon's pitching coach, called him "a rare, rare pitcher" because of his command and because he has the "presence of mind to channel his Adrenalin."
DUSTIN PEDROIA was lifted for a pinch runner after he walked in the sixth inning. Boston was already leading 8-1.
It was one of the few times Pedroia has been on the bench. He has started all 52 games.
When Farrell was asked when Pedroia would get a day off, Farrell said next Monday -- when the Red Sox are not scheduled to play.
Otherwise, expect No. 15 to be playing second base and batting third.
"In his mind-set he is going to play every day. Hopefully that is the case," Farrell said.
Pedroia is batting .333. Boston (32-20) leads the American League East, and is off to its best start since 2007. And even Aceves is contributing again. So much is going right for these Red Sox.
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at email@example.com