The consensus among Red Sox fans of one-time closer Alfredo Aceves was that he was a man unhinged.
Aceves provided some of the more entertaining — or flat-out scary — moments in the second half of last year’s worth-forgetting season, feuding with former manager Bobby Valentine and letting his anger get the best of him several times.
Plenty of people thought Aceves had done enough to send himself out of town, but now that Valentine is gone and hope brims anew with the arrival of manager John Farrell, Aceves has a good chance of keeping a spot on the team.
Aceves, who earned $1.2 million last season as the part-time closer but who is versatile enough to be a long-innings reliever or even a starter, still has support within the organization due to his undeniable talent.
That starts with Farrell, who has already said he’ll take another look at the mercurial righty.
But another key member of the Red Sox, newly re-signed designated hitter and longtime leader David Ortiz, is also on Aceves’ side when it comes to finding a place to make the pitcher fit.
“Alfredo is a good guy,” Ortiz told Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. “He has his issues, which I think they should sit down and talk to him about this offseason.”
Ortiz acknowledged that a lot of Aceves’ struggles this season had to do with personality problems and getting him to mesh on a team that had “25 different minds, 25 different personalities.” While Ortiz didn’t point the finger at Valentine, Aceves’ inability to recover his fragmented relationship with the manager certainly contributed to his increasingly awkward behavior.
“Aceves is a guy who is very emotional,” Ortiz said. “He reacts in the moment — [that's] the way he is. But that’s something that at some point you can control and just sit down and talk to him, let him know.
“He’s one of the guys who works hard here. He’s got the best stuff, and you got to take advantage of that. You have to sit down with him and say, ‘I’m your boss. This is what you’re going to do for me.’ And I guarantee you, he’ll do that.”
Farrell is widely considered just the type of manager who will do what Ortiz is suggesting, with Farrell having handled pitching staffs before. He’s known for keeping players accountable and helping them understand their roles.
Edes also contested the perception that Aceves has always had character issues, which some people have cited as a chief reason the Yankees cut him loose despite Aceves being increasingly reliable for New York in long relief situations. Edes said sources told him that Aceves was let go more for injury concerns than his behavior.
When Aceves is good, he’s been really good, but he bounced among several roles last season, with his most petulant moments arising when his job was adjusted. He was at first upset that he wasn’t chosen as a starter coming out of spring training before he settled in as the closer and was great for a long stretch. But then, when friction began with Valentine, and closer Andrew Bailey returned from the disabled list to take the ball late in some games, Aceves became rankled once again.
With the Red Sox desperately needing to hang on to the good pitching they have, Aceves could be a valuable commodity — especially if all the caveats that kept him from performing well last year have disappeared.