Alfredo Aceves’ Demotion Shows Allen Webster Is Red Sox’ Top Option When Starter Is Needed


Allen WebsterAllen Webster’s second big league start could come sooner than expected.

Alfredo Aceves was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket after Wednesday’s game against the Athletics. That means the Red Sox will be turning elsewhere if John Lackey is unavailable to return for Sunday’s start against the Astros. Webster should make sure his phone is charged, as he’ll likely be the first one to receive a call.

Manager John Farrell was asked about Aceves, who was lit up on Tuesday night, prior to Wednesday’s game, and he sounded like a man whose patience was running a bit thin. This isn’t to say Farrell was frustrated, or even concerned about the right-hander having possibly called out his teammates following Tuesday’s game, but it was clear the Red Sox skipper expected more out of Aceves.

Aceves allowed eight runs (seven earned) on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings on Tuesday. Making matters worse was that he put together one of the ugliest innings imaginable for a pitcher. He gave up six runs, surrendered three hits, walked three and committed two balks in the third inning on Tuesday. He was also late to cover first base on a ground ball, and then followed up the blunder by misfiring on an ill-advised throw to home.

It was a disaster, and Farrell knew it.

“I think the bottom line is just that — the bottom line. And you’ve got to perform to continue to get opportunities,” Farrell said before Wednesday’s game.

The fact is that Aceves hasn’t performed. Not only did he struggle on Tuesday, but he’s been rather inconsistent dating back to last season — a year in which he went 2-10 with a 5.36 ERA. Aceves was particularly bad down the stretch last season, compiling an 0-3 record and 9.42 ERA in 12 August outings and then a 0-1 record and 7.56 ERA in eight appearances in September and October.

Following Tuesday’s start, Aceves has given up 17 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings (8.66 ERA) in 2013. That left some question about his role, even before the news of his demotion.

“I had a chance to meet with Alfredo today, just to discuss last night, not so much a role going forward,” Farrell said prior to Wednesday’s game. “But it still comes down to continuing to earn those opportunities, and there’s been mixed results over the time period you’ve outlined.”

One could argue that last season’s struggles were due in large part to former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine misusing Aceves. Clearly, Aceves is not meant to be a closer, so him pitching in that role to begin the season ultimately snowballed into terrible results for the entire season. This season, however, Aceves has struggled while pitching in the role he’s really meant for — a long reliever who can fill in as a starter when necessary – so there are no excuses.

Aceves’ somewhat controversial behavior led many to question during spring training whether his presence on the Red Sox was really necessary. Since the team’s other long reliever, Franklin Morales, has been hurt, though, there was a clear role for Aceves. He was worth the hassle, so to speak.

Over time, watching Aceves struggle not only became concerning, but it also became unnecessary. With a talented, young pitcher like Webster standing by, the Red Sox don’t have to cross their fingers and run Aceves out there. Instead, they can go with fresh blood, and Webster already showed in his major league debut on Sunday that he’s up to the challenge.

Wednesday’s demotion may or may not mark the end of the Alfredo Aceves era in Boston, but it at least signifies that he’s no longer option No. 1 when the Red Sox need someone to step up and fill out the rotation.

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