FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If Boston Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves was testing how far he could push the limits with new manager John Farrell, the right-handed reliever quickly found out during a live batting practice session Sunday.
When Aceves toed the rubber on Field 4 in the late morning at the team's spring training facility behind JetBlue Park at Fenway South, he was barely lobbing the ball toward the first few batters he faced, similar to actual batting practice. Pawtucket Red Sox pitching coach Rich Sauveur stood behind the mound and could be seen telling Aceves to speed it up. The pitcher did not listen.
Suddenly, from behind the cage, Farrell walked down the third-base line and stared at Aceves before finally asking the pitcher if there was something wrong.
"Alfredo, are you OK?" Farrell yelled out.
Aceves nodded and continued his odd routine.
The idea of live BP should benefit the pitcher because they're seeing a batter in the box for the first time this spring. A batter rarely will swing at a pitch, but during Aceves' session, many of the hitters were hacking away and fouling balls into the area between practice fields where fans were standing.
Finally, new Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves halted the session and walked out to Aceves on the mound. The two could be heard speaking Spanish. After the pitching coach exited the mound area, Aceves started to actually pitch.
After the session was complete, Farrell signaled for Aceves to join him behind the cage and the two spoke for a few minutes as Nieves joined in.
"The one thing I'll say about that is, he didn't go through the drill as intended and we've addressed it," Farrell said after Day 7 of spring training was complete.
The Sox manager was pressed further on Aceves' live BP session.
"His session on the mound didn't go as intended. He's healthy. It's been addressed," Farrell said.
Apparently, Aceves was upset because he was scheduled to throw first at 10:45 a.m. Instead, John Lackey pitched in that time slot. When asked if that was an issue, Aceves said it wasn't. He was then asked what Farrell and Nieves said to him afterward his session.
Aceves was a bit standoffish, and answered, "That stays in the team."
Farrell had addressed his idea of the team concept and philosophy with all the players during the annual spring training meeting on Friday. He apparently reiterated that point to Aceves on Sunday.
"There are 25 individuals on this team, but there are certain things that are going to be accepted and I think those are normal in any kind of clubhouse, or team setting," Farrell said. "If someone strays out of that, that's our job, or my job, to make it clear on what's expected."
Aceves did say he was pleased with his throwing session.
"Of course," he said. "Of course.
"The usual. The usual, what's usual to me, and also the usual for every single one of us," he said.
The routine for pitchers that are scheduled to throw a live BP session is simple. They stretch, warm up in the bullpen, and then pitch at a planned intensity level as they slowly begin to increase their pace.
Aceves' session Sunday finished better than it began.
"With the designed effort level that every pitcher goes through, it was better the last few [pitches], but it's been discussed," Farrell said.
Red Sox catching prospect Christian Vazquez served as Aceves' batterymate for the session, and the catcher admitted he was a bit surprised by how it began.
"He has his routine," Vazquez said. "I catch the ball and throw it back to him, that's all I do."
Aceves is an interesting player, to say the least.
Above his nameplate on his locker stall, he has his baseball card from the 2012 season. It pictures him and then-Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach, both flexing their arms after a victory. Current Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has a copy of the same card in his locker, too.
Aceves prepares to play the game the way he wants to. He goes about his business in a quirky but intense manner. He's versatile and can pitch in any role. He also has had success during his five years in the big leagues, first with the Yankees (2008-2010) and now with the Red Sox since 2011.
During his brief time with the Red Sox, he has served as long reliever, a starter and also the team's closer. Last August, the Red Sox suspended him for three games for "conduct detrimental to the team."
When Farrell took over as manager last October, he explained the positive impact Aceves could have on the mound in Boston. The manager has probably heard plenty of interesting stories about Aceves from general manager Ben Cherington, current players, and also from former Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
"Still getting to know it," Farrell said. "Just from across the field, he's a heck of a competitor and a very talented pitcher. Again, I'm starting to gain my own personal history with him right now, and we had a part of that discussion today."
One Red Sox teammate said that Aceves reads everything that's written about him. He also pays attention to the quotes that his teammates give about his performances, and he'll discuss those comments with them the following day.
Saltalamacchia was one of the batters who stepped into the box against Aceves on Sunday.
"Alfredo is one of the best pitchers in the big leagues -- period," Saltalamacchia said. "He's got great stuff and is probably one of the smartest pitchers I've come across, too. I mean, you look at him and some of the stuff he does is a little crazy, obviously, but it's because he sees the game, and has the capability of slowing the game down so slow.
"That's something Alfredo does really well. He's able to do that and it doesn't affect him. At first, when you get to know him, it's like, 'What are you doing, man?' A little crazy, but he's definitely one of the smartest pitchers I've seen."
When Saltalamacchia first began to work with Aceves in 2011, the catcher admitted, it took two months before he became comfortable working with him.
"I wanted to be on the same page, and he didn't know me," explained Saltalamacchia. "It took a little time, but once we got that trust, and gained that trust with each other, it was smooth sailing.
"He's got that light switch that a lot of guys have trouble with, where he can just flip it on and 'boom.' Today he was just throwing and they told him 'Hey, turn it on' and he was throwing 92, 94 and spotting it. That's special. You can't find that.
"He can be on the moon and then next thing you know, he's right here, so it's pretty special."
When Aceves is sitting in the bullpen, he has his own way of getting ready for a game, and that routine changes almost on a daily basis. There was one game in the middle of last summer when he entered a game in the ninth inning and suddenly changed his delivery, almost similar to pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. After that particular game, Aceves said he decided once he stepped on the mound that day to pitch "old-school style."
"He's his own guy," Red Sox reliever Andrew Bailey said. "He's a special guy. He's got all the talent in the world. For him, he does his routine and what he likes to do and everyone understands that and respects that. He'll get ready for the season however he does and we know he'll be ready to rock. He's kind of loosey goosey and sometimes you laugh, he's funny, but as long as you go about your business and get ready for your game, you trust he will, too."
When Farrell spoke with Aceves during the offseason, the pitcher was told he would be stretched out as a starter at the beginning of spring training because he will serve that role for Mexico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Once he returns to the Red Sox, however, and all the projected Red Sox starters are healthy, Aceves would work as a long reliever.
"We want to take advantage of his versatility and his resiliency," Farrell said. "He wants to be in a role of responsibility. He likes to be a guy that's counted on. He's proven many times over that he's a talented pitcher that can pitch late in the 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 to pat him on the back."
The Red Sox plan to carry a 12-man pitching staff in 2013, which means five starters and seven relievers. There will be competition for those spots in the bullpen during spring training, and if Aceves continues to test Farrell, it'll be interesting to see how the Red Sox handle the situation.
There have been some interesting characters who have played in Boston, including Manny Ramirez, Julian Tavarez and Carl Everett. Alfredo Aceves definitely joins that group.