By Jeff Louderback
Over the course of his five-year Major League career, Alfredo Aceves has developed a reputation for erratic behavior. The New York Yankees grew tired of his antics though he logged a 14-1 mark over three years there. The Red Sox signed him before the 2012 campaign, and it is likely the team will not tolerate much more controversy from the 30-year-old right-hander.
On Sunday, Aceves created a mild disturbance in spring training camp when he was not throwing at full speed during live batting practice against Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jonny Gomes and Mauro Gomez.
According to media reports, pitching coach Juan Nieves marched to the mound and told Aceves to return to a full windup and increase the velocity. Manager John Farrell witnessed the session and asked Aceves if he was alright health-wise.
After the visit from Nieves, Aceves threw the ball harder, yet the incident is another example of the disruption that he is known to occasionally cause.
Late in spring training last year, Aceves was named the closer in place of Andrew Bailey, who underwent thumb surgery after a collision at first base. A versatile arm who can be used in multiple relief roles and as a starter, Aceves struggled for parts of the 2012 campaign and finished with a career-worst 2-10 record, 5.36 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 69 appearances.
Aceves caused a stir last August when he slammed the door of manager Bobby Valentine’s office after an angry encounter regarding how he was not used in a save situation. The Red Sox suspended Aceves for three games and did not let him board a team flight on a road trip.
In September, Valentine trotted to the mound to replace Aceves in the seventh inning of a game, and the cantankerous pitcher handed the ball to Saltalamacchia and avoided eye contact with the manager
Last September, when Aceves was taken out of a game in the seventh inning, he left it to Saltalamacchia to hand the ball to former manager Bobby Valentine. Aceves left the mound from the third base side, clearly to avoid locking eyes with Valentine.
That same month, Aceves and Dustin Pedroia had a heated exchange in the dugout in Oakland after Aceves delivered a series of pickoff throws to second base that Pedroia was not expecting.
On Sunday, Saltalamacchia and Gomes downplayed the incident, and Farrell told the media that he had a talk with Aceves.
“The one thing I’ll say is he didn’t go through the drill as intended and we’ve addressed it,” Farrell told reporters after the workout. “He’s healthy. With the designed effort level that every pitcher goes through, it was better the last few (pitches he threw). And it’s been discussed.”
During the offseason, there was speculation that the Red Sox would trade Aceves because of the club’s objective to improve the culture and put the dysfunction of 2012 behind them. Though Aceves provides starting pitching depth and is a workhorse in the bullpen, his spot on the opening day roster is not assured – especially if more disruptions occur.
Farrell, who is an intimidating presence to many players and commands respect, is not one who will tolerate Aceves’ antics. Farrell said that every player will be given a fresh start, and Aceves has already started to spoil his chances.
“What took place last year, I can’t speak to first-hand. I can get background on certain situations. 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,” Farrell said. “Still getting to know (his personality). 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. We had a part of that discussion today.”
Ideally, Aceves will be a good citizen on the field and in the clubhouse, and he will give the Red Sox a rubber armed righty who can serve as a long reliever, a set up man in key situations and a spot starter. Now that the club has upgraded its roster with guys who play the game hard and are known as good teammates, disruptions should not be dismissed without repercussions.
Boston has bullpen depth at the Major League and Triple-A levels. They will survive if they feel compelled to trade Aceves. And if he continues to be a disruption, they should find him a new home.