Over the last two years, Alfredo Aceves has come to figure that opportunities work on their own time.
The last time he took the mound as a starting pitcher was June 2011 and it ended in a six-walk meltdown. From that point on, he was in flux, wandering from one nebulously defined role to the next, while it was clear he wanted to be a starter.
He didn’t hear opportunity’s knock again until this week, when Sox first-year manager John Farrell told him he’d start in the place of John Lackey, who had been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained biceps.
Having watched Aceves throw 55 pitches in his last outing against Toronto, Farrell’s hope was that Aceves could give at least six innings.
He worked five solid innings Thursday, giving up two runs on six hits, while striking out four. He downplayed his return to a role as a starter.
“We’ve got to keep working and try to play better, and whatever they tell me to do, I’ll do,” Aceves said.
His only true miscue was a 3-and-0 fastball to Chris Davis in the second that the Baltimore first baseman belted over the Red Sox bullpen. Otherwise, Aceves kept all crises to a minimum.
“He gave us five solid innings of work,” Farrell said. “But given his first start of the year, he kept the game under control. I thought he managed the lineup well, with the exception of the solo home run on the 3-0 pitch to Davis, I thought he worked his way around the lineup fairly well tonight.”
With Lackey on the mend, Farrell said Aceves will continue to fill in.
“Right now, he’s on line to make the next start,” Farrell said.
The nine-pitch at-bat was a good sign from Mike Napoli. It came in the third inning against Orioles starter Chris Tillman and ended in an RBI single.
It was a sign to Farrell that Napoli, who’s gotten off to a slow start hitting .176 through the first eight games, was finding his timing.
“Against good stuff against Tillman tonight, you could see his timing getting a little more consistent,” Farrell said. “They attacked him with fastballs away, up and down away, and some breaking balls and he’s starting to foul some pitches off that maybe three or four days ago he wasn’t quite getting to. But he’s starting to settle in pretty good.”
With a 2 for 4 day, Napoli upped his average to .211.
Wilson takes his spot
As a part of the domino effect of John Lackey hitting the disabled list with a biceps injury, Alex Wilson was called up to replace Aceves in the bullpen. He threw 7⅔ innings in six spring training appearances, giving up just one run on one hit. “I feel like I can be a consistent arm out of the bullpen,” Wilson said. “I’m a guy that can come right at hitters and hopefully get some quick innings and some quick outs for these guys. I’m a fastball-slider guy. I come right at you and I try to keep it as simple as that.” Wilson made his major league debut in the ninth inning, walking Manny Marchado, inducing Nick Markakis to ground into a double play, and striking out Adam Jones on three pitches . . . Daniel Nava had reached base in 16 straight starts going back to last September . . . Tillman and teammate Miguel Gonzalez were in a minor accident en route to Fenway when a taxi they were traveling in was tapped from behind. Manager Buck Showalter said neither player was hurt . . . Former third baseman Grady Hatton, whose 12-year career included a three-year stint with the Red Sox, died in Warren, Texas. He was 90.