Saturday, March 9, 2013
Takeaways: Aceves steals show from afar
By Rick Weber, Special to ESPNBoston.com
Larry Walker said he thought he "saw Satan" in the eyes of Alfredo Aceves.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A few takeaways from the Fort, where the Red Sox clubhouse erupted raucously when teammate Alfredo Aceves immersed himself in a World Baseball Classic brawl and team officials recoiled in horror.
It’s not exactly an alluring advertisement for the Grapefruit League when a mercurial, mysterious player steals the show from 2,272 miles away. But that’s pretty much what happened Saturday night as the Red Sox went down meekly to the Baltimore Orioles, managing seven hits in a 5-2 loss at JetBlue Park just hours after Aceves took a few punches to the noggin in Mexico’s loss to Canada.
“I think we all hope our players don’t get injured when they go off to a tournament -- particularly in that type of melee,” manager John Farrell said. “We had a message from their trainer that he came out of it OK despite a taking a couple of left hooks to the head.”
Most of the players were in the clubhouse when the nasty brawl broke out at Chase Field in Phoenix, and they gathered around the TV monitors in the middle of the room.
“Oh, geez,” pitcher Andrew Miller said. “I mean, emotions are tough in a situation like that. From what I saw, I can’t comment for Ace, but he kind of ended up on the wrong side. Somehow he ended up as the guy on the Mexican team closest to the Canadian guys. He got thrown down, and anybody’s instinct in that situation is going to be to react. It’s unfortunate for him. He just ended up on a side surrounded by the other team.”
Aceves wasn’t on the mound at the time of the incident, but raced onto the field with most of his teammates after Canada's Rene Tosoni was hit by a pitch from Arnold Leon. The Sox reliever was tossed to the ground by Philadelphia minor league outfielder Tyson Gillies during the height of the altercation and also appeared to take several blows while being held by Canadian players.
"I had a hold of him, and I thought I saw Satan in his eyes," Walker said after the game.
Aceves was one of seven players were ejected in the fracas. WBC organizers are reviewing tape of the incident for possible disciplinary action.
* Felix Doubront’s showing in Saturday night’s Grapefruit League loss to the Orioles was a mixed bag. He struck out five in three innings, but also was touched for four hits and two runs.
“Better arm speed, better tempo to his overall game,” Farrell said. “Today was a good day of work for him.”
The good news was the dominating inning turned in by closer Joel Hanrahan, who had been scuffling. Hanrahan dispatched the Orioles quickly, striking out two in the fourth with a fastball that peaked at 96 mph.
“I felt good out there,” Hanrahan said. “I’ve been feeling good. It was just better results. It’s always nice to have a clean inning. Just to be able to finish an inning was pretty exciting.”
Hanrahan is headed back to Boston for the birth of his son.
“Real excited. This is the day I’ve been waiting for for a long time. I don’t really know how to explain it. I’ll get a chance to meet my little son that’s been brewing for nine months.”
* Since 2010, the average MLB salary for a starting pitcher has gone from $4.58 million to $6.1 million, while the average salary for a relief pitcher has dropped from $2.11 million to $1.8 million.
If you think Daniel Bard is tempted to take another shot at being a starter, you don’t know him.
“I don’t need any more money,” said Bard, who is making $1.86 million this year after making $1.61 million last year. “I have enough money as it is. It’s nice we can play this game and get paid well to do it. At this point, I just want to have fun -- pitch some big innings for this team and help us win a lot of games.”
Bard is battling for a roster spot after a nightmarish 2012 season, which featured a stint in Triple-A Pawtucket, where he had a 7.03 ERA and gave up 31 hits and 29 walks in just 32 innings.
He says he feels much more comfortable knowing he’ll be a reliever this year -- and it’s showing, with four strikeouts in two scoreless innings this spring.
“Last year, it felt like some people wanted the starting thing and some people didn’t,” said Bard, who will pitch Sunday against the Rays in Port Charlotte. “I couldn’t even tell who it was. You just got that sense that not everybody was on the same page. I could kind of tell because it took them so long to make the decision.
“Once I got optioned in June, they didn’t know what they wanted me to do in Triple-A. They left it up to me basically, and I told them, ‘Hey, let’s go back to throwing one inning,’ so that’s what we did. It just never seemed set in stone. I think it was a reflection of the whole organization. A lot of things maybe weren’t communicated real well.
“It feels a lot different this year in that respect. I think it’s good we are all on the same page this year. I’ve had a lot of success out of the bullpen and it’s good to go back.”
Jonny Gomes wasn’t in Boston’s clubhouse last year, but his experience tells him the reliever-turned-starter-turned-reliever thing wasn’t likely to work out for Bard.
“I’ve never pitched in this game, nor will I ever, but from what I’ve seen, it’s absolutely miserable to get these roles messed with as far as starter, closer, setup, lefty, long guy, up and down,” he said. “It’s real tough. From playing awhile, those guys that happens to don’t have success.”
Oh, and one other thing: “I think it’s going to be helpful to get old John back in his back pocket,” he said, referring to Farrell, who served as Bard’s pitching coach with the Red Sox in 2009 and 2010, when Bard established himself as one of baseball’s top relievers.
* The Red Sox’s trip to Port Charlotte to face the Rays jars Gomes’ memory. That was his team from 2003 to 2008 -- which just happened to be one of the most successful periods in Red Sox history.
“The Red Sox in my time coming up was a team to admire and a team to structure yourself after,” he said. “You had Nomar (Garciaparra), Manny (Ramirez), Papi (David Ortiz), Johnny (Damon), (Kevin) Millar, just having a ball. You watch ’em in batting practice, they’re just as loose as can be, but at the same time when they get in the cage, they’re locked in. You see them talking and joking and wearing whatever they want, literally having a ball. In a game where there is so much failure, it was nice to see that not everyone was frickin’ miserable.”
And yet at no time did he wish the Rays could be the Red Sox.
“People kind of view the old Devil Rays, the old green uniforms, as losers,” he said. “But the first real piece of success, I think, was ‘99 in the draft with (No. 1 pick Josh) Hamilton. From then on, we won championships all throughout the minor leagues. We won rookie ball, A-ball, Double-A. I remember the first day of spring training was five minutes of congratulating all the teams and the All-Stars. It was just a matter of getting those guys to the big leagues. We didn’t want to be the Red Sox. We just wanted to get our core of guys to the big leagues and do it our way.”
* Bard on right-hander Allen Webster, who has been turning heads with his 97 mph fastball: “I’ve heard nothing but people getting blown away by how good he is. I don’t think anyone knew quite what we got with him. He’s what, 23? He’s still getting better, stronger. I think this is probably the hardest he’s thrown. He’s at that age where he’s still coming up.”
Gomes on Webster: “In all 30 teams, there’s a buzz about a high number -- these guys wearing 60, 70, 80, 90 on their back. There’s always a buzz about one. And I’d say he’s our buzz right now.”
Not that Webster is on his own bandwagon.
“He’s pretty quiet -- what a first-year, big-league-camp guy should be, I think,” Bard said. “Keep your mouth shut, and if somebody talks to you, you talk back.”
* Dustin Pedroia gave a fielding lesson Saturday afternoon to a winner of a David Ortiz Children's Fund auction. Ortiz tweeted: “big thanks to my boy @15Lasershow for doing a fielding lesson today to benefit the @DavidOrtizFund.”