Red Sox manager John Farrell said that the decision to send right-hander Alfredo Aceves to Triple-A Pawtucket was based only on the pitcher’s results on the mounds. With the 30-year-old in possession of an 8.66 ERA in five appearances (three starts) this year, after finishing last season with a 9.27 ERA in 12 appearances (22 1/3 innings), questions about his off-field conduct did not play a role.
The decision, Farrell said, was “performance-based, solely — not just in the outings this year, but going back last six weeks, eight weeks last year, this was strictly performance-based,” said the manager. “He’ll start [in Pawtucket]. He’s just got to gain consistency. He’s healthy, and when he’s been consistent, such as the five innings in Cleveland, he pitched very well. The capability is there, yet we’ve got to get him back on track, not just inning to inning but outing to outing.”
Given the fact that there are inconsistencies on an inning-to-inning basis, Farrell was asked why Aceves will be stretched out as a rotation depth option in the minors rather than prepared for a potential bullpen job — returning, perhaps, to the role in which he became such an impactful contributor to the Sox in 2011. Farrell suggested that need played a considerable part in it.
The Sox expect to activate John Lackey on Sunday to rejoin the rotation as a fifth starter. Aside from Aceves, the only other viable starting depth options on the 40-man roster are Allen Webster and knuckleballer Steven Wright. (Rubby De La Rosa and Franklin Morales are not yet stretched out enough for big league starts; Drake Britton is in Double-A and not ready for big league action.)
The Sox seem somewhat less vulnerable in their bullpen. In addition to the current group of Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Bailey, Clayton Mortensen, Daniel Bard and Alex Wilson, the team also has Joel Hanrahan and Craig Breslow nearly ready for returns.
Given that Aceves has struggled in both a starter’s role and out of the bullpen dating to last August, need dictated that his greatest utility to the Sox might be as a rotation option.
“There are other guys ahead of him in that bullpen role. I can’t say that the performance issues we talked about were solely in a starter’s role,” said Farrell. “We have other people who are ahead of him and regardless of the role, there’s got to be that consistency that we’re talking about. … He is a depth starter for us. Whether that’s six, seven, eight or nine is more predicated on rest and who’s available on a given day. He goes back to that role.”
Farrell said that Aceves accepted the team’s rationale for the move, saying that he accepted news of the decision “like a pro. Outlined the reasons for the move. He understood them, appreciated the opportunity, felt that he’d go down and work to get back here.”
Asked whether the decision to demote him had anything to do with some unusual incidents, from his comportment in a live batting practice session in spring training to his lapses of focus during his most recent start against the A’s or some comments that could have been construed as calling out his teammates after that loss, Farrell reiterated that those did not factor into Aceves’ assignment to Pawtucket.
“The issues or occurrences that you’re referring to were dealt with individually at the time. This was performance-based,” said Farrell.
Aceves has been asked to report to Pawtucket by Saturday, when the team returns from its current roadtrip.
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