Just when things seemed to be going just as planned for the Red Sox the bad news came– Andrew Bailey had hurt his thumb and would require surgery. This looked bad as it looked as if he would miss a few months– however, we now know that he will be out until the All-Star Break. This was a huge blow to a Red Sox bullpen that looked as if it could be very good with Bailey, Mark Melancon, Alfredo Aceves, and potentially Daniel Bard. However, with Bard in the rotation and Bailey on the DL, this bullpen may be very weak heading into 2012. Bailey was acquired this offseason to replace former closer Jonathan Papelbon, and now the closer role is undecided again with two major candidates: Alfredo Aceves and Mark Melancon.
While it probably will be Melancon who takes over the role, Alfredo Aceves would provide a very interesting option to finish games. He would be a nostalgic memory for older fans who remember the closers of the 1970’s and 1980’s who would often go two or three innings to end the game. Aceves threw 114 innings in 55 games last season– averaging just over two innings per start, showing he’d have the stamina to bring back the days of old. However, the main reason why Aceves would fit in the role of closer is that he is very, very good. Now, Melancon is very good as well, but Aceves has pitched his entire career in the AL East and has excelled. Last season he went 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA as the long relief/setup man for the Red Sox.
It’s certainly not out of the question that Aceves could dominate in the role of closer. He has a massive arsenal of pitches to baffle hitters– including a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, cutter, and change– well above average for a relief pitcher (normally they rely on a fastball and breaking pitch of some sort). While he doesn’t quite dial it up– his fastball ranges mostly in the low 90’s, he changes speeds effectively with a change in the low 80’s and cutter in the high 70’s. Aceves mainly pitches to contact, but struck out 6.32 batters per nine innings and walked 3.32 worth a 1.90 ratio in 2011. No matter where Aceves is in the bullpen, Red Sox fans everywhere should trust that he will make a huge impact much as he did last season.