The Red Sox have given Alfredo Aceves until Saturday to report to Triple A Pawtucket and their expectation is that he will comply with their wishes after being demoted.
The 30-year-old righthander has no other choice after being optioned Wednesday night. The alternative would be not collecting on his $2.65 million salary.
Aceves handled the news “like a pro,” according to manager John Farrell.
“Outlined the reasons for the move, he understood them, appreciated the opportunity and felt he’d go down and work to get back here,” Farrell said before Thursday’s game against the Astros.
Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington said the move was based solely on performance and was not a reflection of Aceves’s occasionally disruptive behavior.
Aceves is 1-5 with an 8.51 earned run average and three blown saves in 25 games since Aug. 1. He allowed 17 earned runs on 25 hits and 12 walks over 17⅔ innings this season.
“He’s got to pitch better. It goes back to last year. He just hasn’t performed well enough,” Cherington said. “He has performed in the past and he’s capable of performing. He’s talented enough to do that. But he’s got to get back to the things that have made him good. There’s nothing else to it, he just has to pitch better. If he pitches better, there will be better options for him.”
Aceves will work as a starter for Pawtucket. The Red Sox, major league sources said, are open to trading him. But his value is minimal.
“The capability is there. Yet we’ve got to get him back on track. Not just inning to inning but outing to outing,” Farrell said. “He is a depth starter for us. Whether that’s 6, 7, 8, or 9 is more predicated on rest and who’s available on a given day. He goes back to that role.”
Cherington believes Aceves can turn it around.
“The good outcomes for Alfredo and the Red Sox are when he’s pitching well, when he’s effective. We’ll continue to do whatever we can to help him get there,” he said.
“This was not about a lack of effort. He’s a hard worker. This is just strictly about performance.”
Playing it safe
Right fielder Shane Victorino was out of the lineup with lower back spasms. He left Wednesday’s game after batting in the sixth inning.
“He’s day to day,” Farrell said. “How long this takes, we’re hopeful it’s only a couple of days.”
The Sox will give Victorino an extra day off just to be safe. He missed two games over the weekend because of his back.
“We’ve got to be a little more cautious this time around,” Farrell said. “By no means are we going to take a risk here . . . We won’t even consider putting him in the lineup until he’s symptom-free. Even then it might be best served to give him one additional day after that. We’re going to go on when he’s free and clear of the symptoms.”
Cherington said the idea of Victorino going on the disabled list hasn’t been discussed.
Daniel Nava started in right field Thursday and Mike Carp came off the bench to start in left.
Lackey going Sunday
John Lackey threw in the bullpen before the game and is set to come off the disabled list and start on Sunday.
“He says he feels good and ready and we’re confident he’ll be ready,” Cherington said.
Lackey walked off the mound in Toronto April 6 clutching his right arm in pain. But what looked like a serious injury at first proved to be a strained biceps. Lackey went 3⅔ innings for Double A Portland Monday.
According to Cherington, biceps strains are not uncommon for pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery.
“We’re very encouraged that what he had, based on the MRI and the evaluations he’s had since, is not anything that’s going to get in the way going forward,” Cherington said.
Lackey may not be able to go more than five innings given his lack of action over three weeks. But with a day off on Monday, the Sox are comfortable the bullpen can pick up the slack.
“That’s the approach taken right now,” Farrell said.
Bard makes debut
Daniel Bard pitched an uneventful ninth inning, allowing a two-out single before getting a grounder back to the mound in his season debut. He threw 18 pitches, 10 for strikes, and hit 96 miles per hour with his fastball.
“Aggressive,” Farrell said. “Attacked the strike zone. [Plate umpire] Tim McClelland notoriously has a pretty tight strike zone but he looked free and easy, looked confident. That was a good inning of work and a very encouraging one.”
Stay will be short
Ryan Lavarnway joined the team, taking the roster spot vacated by Aceves. The plan is to keep him around as a pinch hitter until Sunday, at which point Lackey would be activated. The Sox could have used an outfielder but Jackie Bradley Jr. is not eligible to return to the team. He was optioned to Pawtucket April 20 and a player must stay in the minors for 10 days before returning, unless he’s replacing a player on the disabled list . . . The Sox said 4,800 fans attended the game on free tickets given out by the team as a reward for those who sat through the rain on Tuesday or skipped that game entirely. In all, approximately 6,200 took the offer over two days . . . Mike Napoli has 16 extra-base hits this month, tying the team’s April record set by Jose Offerman in 1999 . . . David Ortiz’s home run was his first since July 13 and his first at Fenway since June 27 . . . UMass-Lowell hockey captain Riley Wetmore threw out the first pitch. The River Hawks advanced to the Frozen Four this season . . . A group of Boston firefighters who were among the first to respond to the Marathon bombings were introduced to the crowd after the fourth inning and received a well-deserved ovation. Players from both teams joined in.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.