He was arguably the best pitcher on the 2011 Red Sox. His ability to excel in the swing man role made him a dangerous weapon in just about any game situation. He could give quality innings, multiple innings or close out games in a pinch. Bring him into a game and the Sox could usually breathe easy.
The Red Sox needed a closer but had no backup plan. The guy who should have been tabbed to step in for Bailey, Daniel Bard, was in the middle of a failed experiment to make him a starter and management was scrambling for a solution.
Aceves never got comfortable in the role all season and because he was now the closer, the Red Sox also had a gaping hole for most of the early season with no effective swing man in Aceves’ old spot.
Now, in 2013, the Red Sox bullpen seems to have the necessary depth to return Aceves to the swing role he excelled in both here and in New York with the Yankees.
The first thing manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves should do (if they haven’t already) is sit Aceves down and clearly define that he will return to his old role as swing man and that he will be an important part of the pitching picture this year.
Because in watching Aceves, it looks like it’s all about confidence with him. When he is comfortable and confident in his role he simply pitches better. That was clearly not the case last year.
Aceves really had no idea how he was going to be used going into camp last spring. He wanted to start, the Sox wanted to keep him as a swing man or set up man but then they abruptly shifted him to the closer job.
I’m not making excuses for his performance or behavior, but if Farrell wants to get the best out of this guy clearly define his role and don’t deviate from it.
The Red Sox starting pitching has a lot of questions going into camp. Aceves should get a lot of middle to late inning opportunities and will need to be a weapon again.
If the Sox want those inning to look more like 2011 than 2012, then it behooves them to set up Aceves for success. Some would call that babying.
But coming off a 69 win mess last season it’s more of a smart business move. If you are going to keep Aceves, keep him happy and confident.
Part of Farrell’s pedigree is that he is supposed to be a commanding leader. A great way to start proving it is by taking control of a volatile situation and defusing it immediately for the benefit of both the team and the player.