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Alfredo Aceves has the type of arm that can bounce back fast after pitching several innings in an appearance, but right now, the Red Sox rotation is full. Aceves, 30, now needs to fight for a spot in the crowded bullpen for that one or two long-relief spots. Sure, he can be a lights-out guy at times, but he struggled with the closer’s role most of the year last season. He finished with a 2-10 record and an ERA of 5.36.
But, do Aceves’s struggles coincide with his attitude toward the coaching staff last year, or was he really just having a tough time taking on new role with one focus (closing games)?
Let’s look back at a season where Aceves was one of the best weapons for the Red Sox.
In 55 appearances, four of those being starts, the Mexico-native finished with a 10-2 record and a 2.61 ERA in a total of 114 innings. He never once complained about his flip-flopping roles with five save opportunities and being thrust into the starting rotation when necessary.
There was no definition to what he was on the team. His unusual rubber arm allowed him to be a long-relief option at times, while at other times, he was called upon to get one or two batters out and come back the next day.
In the heat-of-the-moment opportunities, such as the saves, he blew three of those five chances, which should have been a big indicator for Bobby Valentine in 2012 that he should not be looked at as a closer for a full season.
Once Andrew Bailey went down with a thumb injury during spring training, Bobby Valentine decided to put Aceves into the mix as an option to take over as closer since he had such solid numbers in 2012. He eventually was named the outright closer towards the end of spring training.
The start of the year for Aceves was not so great with a couple blown saves and an ERA of 9.00 in his first four save opportunities.
After these hiccups, he began to settle into his role, but he started to try to throw like a closer. He amped up his fastball to 96-97 mph, which is about three to four mph more than what it was for most of the 2011 season. He may have been trying to be that “fireballer” to close out games, but this ended up hurting him after some success in May, June and July.
After those three months with ERAs lower than 3.15, he struggled with an ERA of 9.42 in August and 8.16 in September. During this time period, he blew 3-of-6 save opportunities and lost his closer’s role to Bailey.
So, with a largely undefined role for 2013, look for Aceves to bounce back in a big way.