Alfredo AcevesAlfredo Aceves is an interesting player and an even more interesting human. But while the pitcher’s zany antics often leave the Red Sox scratching their heads, the club must not lose sight of the fact that Aceves has the potential to play an important role this season.

Aceves, who clashed with former Sox manager Bobby Valentine last season, has a reputation of being someone who marches to the beat of a different drummer. His demeanor is rather unusual, as are his actions, and he has found himself in hot water with the team on a few separate occasions. It’s really not all that surprising that he’s already in new skipper John Farrell‘s dog house, although Sunday’s strange incident has certainly refueled the debate about whether or not Aceves is worth the headache that sometimes comes with dealing with his behavior.

Rather than going all out on the mound during a live batting practice session on Sunday like he was supposed to, Aceves lobbed his pitches when facing Jarrod Saltalamacchia, which led to a lecture from the manager. Farrell said the session “didn’t go as intended,” but that the situation has been addressed. That doesn’t mean the Aceves drama is over, though, as the club once again has to weigh the pros and cons of keeping him around. In fact, Aceves’ behavior is even more concerning this time since there has been a major emphasis this offseason on changing the Red Sox’ clubhouse culture and putting all of the negativity of 2012 in the rear-view mirror.

One “solution” to the Aceves drama would be to cut ties with the hurler, either by waiving him or trading him away. That would send a message throughout the organization, and it would make Farrell’s job a little bit easier. However, after looking at the big picture, the Red Sox should refrain from going down that road — at least for the time being.

Aceves might be a bit wacky, but he’s also an extremely talented and versatile pitcher. The 30-year-old’s 2012 stat line — 2-10 with a 5.36 ERA and 1.32 WHIP — hardly looks impressive, but he pitched well at times despite being thrust into the closer’s role out of team necessity. In 2011, he was very effective, going 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA in 55 appearances, which included four starts. Even during the team’s September collapse that year, Aceves was a workhorse. He consistently took the ball and provided quality innings whenever called upon, which certainly earned the respect of his peers.

Two years later, the Red Sox’ patience is really being tested. But while Farrell might need a bit more Advil this season with Aceves in the mix, keeping the pitcher around should be Boston’s current game plan because Aceves really does make the pitching staff better.

“Alfredo is one of the best pitchers in the big leagues — period,” Saltalamacchia told “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.”

It seems a bit wild to call Aceves one of the best pitchers in the majors, but Salty’s bigger point holds true. Aceves has a live arm and fantastic stuff, which makes him an extremely valuable asset to the Red Sox. When you consider the other questions surrounding the team’s pitching staff, Aceves’ value becomes even clearer.

Aceves has worn a number of hats with the Red Sox, and it’s his versatility that makes him so unique. He figures to start the season in the Boston bullpen, which looks to be one of the team’s strengths, and could become a very important long reliever. Aceves has the ability to not only go multiple innings, but he can also do so with minimal rest in between outings. During the grind that is a baseball season, pitchers with such capabilities are a rare breed.

What makes Aceves especially important to the 2013 Red Sox, though, is his ability to start if needed. The Red Sox’ rotation looks set for right now, but strange things happen throughout a 162-game slate. Clay Buchholz is already battling a hamstring issue, Felix Doubront‘s conditioning has been called into question and no one really knows what to expect from John Lackey. It’s not far-fetched to think Aceves could see some starts at some point during the season.

Farrell certainly has his work cut out for him this year. He’s trying to turn the Red Sox’ fortunes around, and any distraction makes life difficult. What makes life even more difficult, though, is a lack of pitching depth. Getting rid of Aceves might alleviate one headache, but pitching woes carry their own migraines.

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