BOSTON -- The tenuous nature of Alfredo Aceves’ place on the Red Sox was reinforced Wednesday during John Farrell’s pregame session with the media, when the Sox manager reiterated that the club’s tolerance for his erratic performances is growing short.
“I think the bottom line is just that, the bottom line," Farrell said. “You’ve got to perform to continue to get opportunities."
Aceves has made three starts while John Lackey has been on the disabled list with a strained right bicep. Lackey is scheduled to throw a bullpen Thursday, and if all goes well, he will start here Sunday against the Houston Astros.
But if Lackey can’t go, Farrell said that it’s hardly automatic that Aceves would take his place.
“He’d be one of the candidates," Farrell said, citing Allen Webster, who made his big-league debut Sunday night before being returned to Pawtucket, as another possibility.
Aceves had gone five innings in each of his first two starts, throwing 106 pitches last week in Cleveland before home runs by Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi knocked him out in the sixth inning. His ability to come out of the pen and serve as an emergency starter is precisely what gives him value to the Sox.
Then came Tuesday night, when in ghastly weather conditions, Aceves pitched as badly as the weather, especially in a third inning in which he walked three batters, committed two balks, was late in covering first base, and made a throwing error. The next inning he gave up a home run to Seth Smith, even with a strong crosswind sweeping Fenway Park.
His numbers through three starts: 20 hits, 10 walks, 4 home runs in 13 1/3 innings, and an 8.10 ERA.
After Tuesday night's game, Farrell spoke of a loss of “focus” while a clearly emotional Aceves, in a rambling back-and-forth with reporters, mentioned the weather, the hole dug by opposing pitcher Bartolo Colon and a small strike zone as factors in his performance. Aceves, who spoke in English but has made it clear he’s not comfortable in his second language, took responsibility for covering the bag late and for making a bad throw. He also made a vague reference to Sox hitters not having success against Colon, which some construed as calling out his teammates.
Farrell said he didn’t read it that way.
“I will say this: Setting elements aside, Bartolo was probably as sharp as any time this year," Farrell said. “When he’s on, he can shut a team down. He came in here undefeated and remains that way. I don’t know if in that context Alfredo was calling out his teammates. I don’t believe he was.
“There was some frustration and some, I don’t know how to describe it other than some indecision on his part inside that game. If that’s how he chooses to describe it, I wouldn’t put it on his teammates by any means."
Farrell said he met Wednesday morning with Aceves.
“I had a chance to meet with Alfredo today just to discuss last night, not a role going forward," Farrell said, “but it still comes down to you need to earn these opportunities, and there have been mixed results."
There are also pitchers on their way back to being activated, which further could jeopardize Aceves’ spot on the team. Lackey is returning, of course. Joel Hanrahan was throwing a bullpen Wednesday afternoon and will be headed to Pawtucket on Friday to begin a rehab assignment if all goes well. Left-handed reliever Craig Breslow, who started Tuesday’s game for Portland, is scheduled for back-to-back appearances in Pawtucket on Saturday and Sunday.
Left-hander Franklin Morales, meanwhile, remains a question mark and may have his rehab assignment stopped. He developed some soreness in his left pectoral muscle while pitching for Class A Greenville earlier this week and was brought back to Boston to be re-evaluated and placed on a long-toss program. The Sox have not scheduled when he will make his next appearance.