Stewart rocked in Sox debut as Angels roll
August, 30, 2012
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As an exercise in humiliation, it was a toss-up.
Right-hander Zach Stewart gave up nine runs and 10 hits in three innings in his Boston Red Sox debut. That's the most runs allowed by a pitcher in his Sox debut in 109 years, or since Norwood Gibson was lit up for nine on April 29, 1903. Stewart became the first Sox pitcher since Howard Ehmke in 1923 to give up at least 10 hits and nine runs in three innings or less, and his nine runs allowed were the most by a Sox pitcher in his starting debut since John Wilson was torched for 11 in 1927.
Depending on your perspective, Stewart might have managed no worse than a tie for worst night by a Sox pitcher Wednesday. Last week, Alfredo Aceves was the team's closer. Heck, he even was given a chance at a two-inning save Tuesday night after serving a three-game suspension for some undisclosed breach of discipline.
On Wednesday night, Aceves was brought in as mop-up man, working the last two innings of a 10-3 loss to the Angels, who now have beaten the Red Sox five straight times in a span of nine nights.
"I don't know my role, I don't know what my role is," Aceves said evenly. "I just pitch. I am here, I'm glad to be here, we all work hard and try to win. That decision is not my decision."
Valentine was asked after the game if Aceves, who had blown three of his last six save chances and had a 10.32 ERA in August entering Wednesday's game, had relinquished his role as closer.
"He can pitch a lot," the manager said. "He can pitch very often. We'll pitch him as much as we can. Maybe stretch him out."
When reporters entered his office, Valentine was sitting at his desk, his swivel chair creaking as he rocked back and forth.
"He got too many pitches up," he said of Stewart, who trailed, 4-0, four batters into the game after Mike Trout singled, Torii Hunter doubled him home, Albert Pujols singled home Hunter, and Kendrys Morales launched a blast for his 17th home run of the season. "He has to be down in the zone to be effective.
"It's tough to come out and start against this team and have things go bad from the first hitter…Life in the big leagues. You get an opportunity, sometimes you make the best of it, sometimes you have to have more than one opportunity to show what you can do."
Valentine had Junichi Tazawa, who was the last man warming up in the bullpen Tuesday, warming up in the first inning Wednesday. The Angels went ahead 5-1 in the second on a double by Erick Aybar and RBI single by Hunter, and Morales opened the third with a double. Tazawa was warming in the inning, but when Stewart retired the next two batters, Valentine said he elected to let Stewart try to finish the inning.
RBI double, RBI double, and an Iannetta home run later, and it was 9-1.
"He had two outs in the third inning, I was trying to get him through the third," Valentine said. "I was deathly afraid of using my entire bullpen."
He wound up using three relievers -- Tazawa for two innings, Andrew Miller for one, and Aceves for two.
"Guys who came in did a good job," he said. "Saving some of the bullpen, just about on a regular pace tomorrow."
Unprompted, Valentine then asked a reporter, "You think I should have taken him out in the first inning?"
When the reporter replied maybe he should have lifted him in the third, he said, sarcastically: "Ninth-place hitter up. Would have been a good decision. Guy hit a home run. Third inning, two outs, he gave up a run."
Stewart was told after the game he'd been optioned to Pawtucket, which would have been the outcome regardless of how he pitched. The Sox needed to open a roster spot for Daniel Bard, who arrived here Wednesday. Acquired from the White Sox in the Kevin Youkilis deal, Stewart gave up as many extra base hits Wednesday (seven) as he had in two months with the PawSox. No mystery, perhaps, that he has been traded three times in three years.
One scout who had seen Stewart pitch earlier in the season thought the pitcher had employed a lower arm slot previously, threw the ball harder and kept the ball down more than he did Wednesday.
"That's something I worked on with the White Sox a little bit," he said. "I started the season with a little higher arm slot, dropped it down a little bit, and maybe it's something I've gradually crept up and got high again. I don't know. I've got to check it out and look at the video.
"You never want to have a start like that. All you can do is turn the page and go from there."