The Boston Red Sox have run into their first distraction of 2013, as one of new manager John Farrell’s pitching drills was seemingly mocked. This probably wouldn’t even be news except for the fact that the culprit was none other than contentious pitcher Alfredo Aceves.
The 30-year-old reliever baffled Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves by repeatedly lobbing pitches to home plate during a full-speed workout. After Nieves intervened, Aceves began throwing the ball harder—but not before tossing a half dozen more lollipops.
Aceves is no stranger to controversy. He butted heads with former manager Bobby Valentine several times during the 2012 season. From blasting the manager in the media, to throwing temper tantrums in the dugout, to completely ignoring Valentine during his visits to the mound, Aceves repeatedly made headlines last season for all the wrong reasons.
When he’s on, the right-hander is a tremendous pitcher. In 2011 with Boston, Aceves was 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA after appearing in 55 games. He took a step backwards last season, but his role with the team was never clearly defined, and that really seemed to have an adverse effect on his pitching. Now he has a new manager and a new pitching coach, and he’s gotten off on the wrong foot with both.
Farrell was quick to address the situation internally, and hopefully the team will move on without further incident. Aceves cannot afford a repeat of last season’s antics, and he’s sure to be on a short leash with the team. While Valentine was often the butt of the joke last year, Farrell’s presence in the dugout commands far more respect. This is largely because many of the players know him from his time serving as Red Sox pitching coach from 2007-2010.
In an off-season that’s been characterized as an effort by GM Ben Cherington to fill the dugout with team-first personalities, hard workers, and all around “good clubhouse guys”, this is an important test for the Red Sox as a group. If Aceves is giving the manager a test of his own here, the team needs to respond in kind—and maybe they have. It’s been reported that Aceves’ agent, Tom O’Connell, showed up bright and early to Red Sox camp this morning.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)