FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox conducted another day of live batting practice Sunday. When the team does that, the pitchers take the mound, usually behind a screen, and throw game-quality pitches to hitters.
Because the hitters are still getting their timing down, many just track the pitches and do not swing. Others take their hacks. The purpose of the exercise is to give the pitchers a chance to face a hitter. It’s something every team does.
But when Alfredo Aceves took the mound on Field 4 Sunday afternoon, his first few pitches to Jarrod Saltalamacchia were batting-practice speed and right over the plate.
After a bit, it became obvious that Aceves either didn’t understand the point of the drill or wasn’t trying. Pitching coach Juan Nieves visited the mound and their conversation lasted about a minute.
Aceves then fired a real fastball and the rest of his time on the mound was uneventful. When the righthander came off the mound, manager John Farrell was waiting for him.
“He didn’t go through the drill as intended and we’ve addressed it,” Farrell said. “His session on the mound didn’t go as intended. He’s healthy and it’s been addressed.”
Aceves told reporters later that it was “another day in spring training” for him.
“It was usual, whatever is usual for me and usual for every single one of us,” he said.
With Aceves, however, usual is a relative term. Aceves is undeniably talented and versatile. He has a 3.56 earned run average over five seasons, pitching in every role from starter to closer.
Aceves appeared in 43 game for the Yankees in 2009, earning a World Series ring. But he was released after the 2010 season. Aceves spent much of that season on the disabled list with a back injury, missing more time than was expected. He then broke his collarbone during the offseason in what he said was a bicycle accident and was let go.
Aceves signed with the Red Sox just before spring training in 2011 and pitched well that season.
But Aceves had a rocky 2012. He hoped to earn a spot in the rotation and ended up as the closer when Andrew Bailey was injured. Aceves had 25 saves in 33 chances and finished the season with a 5.26 ERA.
The Red Sox suspended Aceves for three games in August after he angrily confronted manager Bobby Valentine.
Aceves had another incident a few weeks later. From that point, he was buried in the bullpen.
But the Red Sox brought Aceves back, signing him to a one-year contract worth $1.2 million. He will work as a starter this spring in case a need arises. If that doesn’t happen, Aceves would become a long reliever.
“That’s not to limit or to outline the exact inning he would pitch. We want to take advantage of his versatility and his resiliency,” Farrell said.
What does Farrell think of Aceves’ personality?
“Still getting to know it,” the manager said. “Just from across the field he’s a heck of a competitor and a very talented pitcher. I’m starting to gain my own personal history with him right now and we had a part of that discussion today.”
The question with Aceves has always been whether he can fit into a team concept.
“There are 25 individuals on this team. There are certain things that are going to be accepted. I think those are normal in any kind of clubhouse or team setting,” Farrell said. “If someone strays outside of that, it’s my job to make it clear on what’s expected.”
Farrell said he started every player with a clean slate and wants to make his own judgments.
“What took place last year I can’t speak to first-handed. I can get some background on some certain situations,” Farrell said. “I think it’s important that not only Alfredo but every other guy in our clubhouse, we build that relationship and earn that trust along the way. That’s critical.”
Farrell told Aceves over the winter what role he would have.
“We’re good,” Farrell said.
Aceves has long said he wants to be a starter. Will he accept a secondary role?
“This is seeing him across the field and also getting a chance to talk with him one-on-one. He wants to be in a role of responsibility. He likes to be a guy that’s counted on. He’s proven it many times over that he’s a talented pitcher that can pitch late in a game and can be trusted as a pitcher.
“We’ve got to ensure that remains consistent. And part of that would be my consistency with him, whether it’s to have a difficult conversation or pat him on the back.”