Which came first, Aceves or the 'huevo'?

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- When is an egg not an egg?

Or, as the issue was raised Wednesday night after Boston’s 2-1 win over Tampa Bay, when is a “huevo” not a “huevo”?

That question arose when Alfredo Aceves, after another terrific emergency start Wednesday night in which he allowed just one run in six innings, was asked if he belonged in the big leagues.

“Huevo,’’ he said.

Come again?

“Huevo,’’ he said.

After the cluster of reporters had melted away, Aceves was asked again. Surely, he wasn’t talking fried, scrambled or poached, was he?

“Huevo -- of course,’’ he said.

Even other native Spanish speakers in the Sox clubhouse said they’d never heard that word used to mean “of course,” but it turns out that among Aceves’ fellow Mexicans, that’s a familiar slang expression.

Enough of the language lesson. In any tongue, Aceves gave the Sox a “huge lift” -- manager John Farrell’s words -- that mirrored the start he made against the Phillies on May 27, when he held the Phils to a run in six innings.

“He’s in a tough situation,’’ catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “Every time he’s come up, he’s come up for a reason, and he’s done it. That’s all you can ask of him. That’s a guy you want. He came up today, we put the ball in his hand, and he won it for us.’’

And for that, he will soon return to Pawtucket, although the Sox will need another spot starter on Tuesday for a day-night doubleheader against the Rays.

“We can’t hit that guy,’’ Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “”He pitched really well against us again.’’

In 20 career appearances against the Rays, Aceves has a 2.27 ERA (including his time with his former team, the Yankees). This was his first career start against Tampa Bay, but the victory will not prevent a return trip to the minors.

“That’s the way we live,’’ he said. “You play one day, and the next day you play in another place.’’