Alfredo AcevesNot bad for a guy who hasn’t started in nearly 22 months.

Alfredo Aceves made his first start since June 21, 2011 against the Orioles on Thursday, and he pitched five solid frames, giving the Red Sox a chance to win in the process. All in all, it’s hard to ask for much more from Aceves, even if the Sox eventually came out on the losing end.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Thursday’s game that Aceves wasn’t on a hard pitch count. Since it was the right-hander’s first start in quite some time, though, it was reasonable to expect that the Sox might limit his workload. Farrell pointed to the sixth inning as a potential end point for Aceves, although it really all depended on how many pitches he threw and under what stress those pitches came.

Aceves ended up throwing 79 pitches (47 strikes) while receiving a no-decision. Fortunately for the Red Sox, he kept the Orioles’ offense at bay for the most part, and it was the bullpen that ultimately caved in the defeat.

Aceves allowed just two earned runs on six hits while striking out four and walking three in his five innings of work. It’s hard to complain about those results even in the loss, especially since the game was tied 2-2 when he departed.

There had been some question — at least from those Aceves haters outside the organization — about whether or not Aceves was really ready to step into a starting role in John Lackey’s absence. While this one start hardly validates him as a go-to starter, it reinforces the fact that Aceves’ versatility is extremely valuable, and it’s unmatched among the Red Sox’ other pitchers.

“[Aceves] gave us five solid innings of work. 80 pitches, 80-85 was kind of the range that we had targeted for him tonight. But given [it was] his first start of the year, [he] kept the game under control,” Farrell said after the game. “I thought he managed the lineup well, with the exception of the solo home run on the 3-0 pitch by [Chris] Davis, I thought he worked his way around the lineup fairly well tonight.”

Aceves wasn’t too quick to pat himself on the back after Thursday’s game.  He did what the Red Sox needed him to do, but while speaking briefly with the media, Aceves repeatedly pointed out how the game ended.

“I feel OK about those five innings. I feel OK. Unfortunately, we didn’t win the game,” Aceves said. “That’s all that matters. As for me personally, I feel well.”

According to Farrell, Aceves will get another start the next time Lackey’s turn in the rotation comes up, which would be Tuesday. Expectations will surely be a bit higher in that game and the Red Sox may ask Aceves to go a bit deeper. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that Aceves — who had a rough 2012 while serving mostly as the Red Sox’ closer — is back to being the guy that bounces around from role to role.

That’s exactly how it should be. It’s called playing to your strengths. Now, Aceves must continue to maintain his focus.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.