John Lackey is ready to come off the disabled list and will likely pitch for the Red Sox on Sunday against the Houston Astros. Alfredo Aceves, who filled in for three starts, will be out of the rotation.
Might Aceves soon be out of a job, too?
The eccentric righthander could not get through four innings against Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night, giving up eight runs against a slumping team on a cold and rainy night at Fenway Park.
It was 13-0 before the umpires mercifully called the game after seven innings.
Aceves blamed the conditions, the mound, the strike zone of umpire Hunter Wendelstedt and, bizarrely, even his teammates for his performance. After a series of incidents, those comments will not sit well with the organization.
Aceves has an 8.51 earned run average and a 1.79 WHIP in his last 25 outings dating to Aug. 1. While undeniably talented, Aceves is equally unreliable at this point.
He has been used as a closer, a long reliever, and for the last three outings as a starter. There has been no consistency in any of those roles.
“It’s varied. I will say that,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “He’s healthy. He’s got the ability to manipulate the baseball, as we’ve seen. You’d like to think that there would be known commodity in a given role, particularly in a starting role when you’ve got five days to prepare for the next outing.”
It was 42 degrees when the game started with rain sweeping across the field from the northwest. The conditions were so wretched the Sox announced that fans in attendance could trade their ticket stub for a free ticket on Wednesday or Thursday.
Oakland starter Bartolo Colon (3-0) didn’t seem to mind. The hefty righthander had an easy time with the Red Sox, allowing three singles. He struck out eight with one walk. The Sox never came close to scoring.
“Maybe his strike zone was not that small for whatever reason,” Aceves said. “Also they got hacks. Why do we not hit? Same thing. It’s just bad today. No matter what score it is, we’ve got to get back out there and give whatever we have, man.”
This from a player who argued with second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the field last season, confronted former manager Bobby Valentine and in spring training lobbed the ball during a session of live batting practice, drawing a reprimand from Farrell.
Aceves (1-1) maneuvered through the first two innings unscathed. That changed in the third inning.
Oakland sent 10 batters to the plate and six scored as Aceves threw 42 pitches, a career high in an inning for him. It was interminable.
Three walks and a single loaded the bases for Oakland’s cleanup hitter, former Red Sox infielder Jed Lowrie. Aceves struck him out.
But Brandon Moss, a former Red Sox prospect, singled in two runs. After a balk, Josh Donaldson followed with a line drive to center field that went for a sacrifice fly.
With two outs, Aceves had a chance to get out of the inning trailing only 3-0. Josh Reddick, yet another former Red Sox player, grounded to the right side. Mike Napoli made a nice play on the ball but Aceves was late covering first.
Moss kept running and scored from second. Aceves made a wild throw to the plate and Reddick ended up on second base. The crowd booed.
“Yeah, it was my fault. That’s only one play,” Aceves said. “It’s hard to explain to you guys. You guys just see the errors, the runs, the hits and whatever . . . The strike zone gets small. Obviously you guys don’t see it that way.”
Another balk advanced Reddick to third base. He scored when Will Middlebrooks made a low throw to first base on a routine grounder and Napoli could not come up with the ball.
When Aceves finally ended the inning, the fans gave him a mock cheer.
Farrell left Aceves in for the fourth inning. With one out, John Jaso doubled and Seth Smith homered into the Red Sox bullpen. When Lowrie singled, Aceves was finally lifted.
Farrell was asked if he had a problem with the effort Aceves gave.
“I don’t know if I’d go into the effort level. There seemed to be a lack of focus given the way Alfredo has pitched this year for us,” the manager said. “It wasn’t a good night.”
Steven Wright, a 28-year-old knuckleballer, made his major league debut with his team trailing 8-0 in the rain. He also had not pitched since April 9 when he was with Triple-A Pawtucket.
The results were predictable. Wright allowed four runs in the fifth inning and another in the sixth on four hits, four walks, and a passed ball.
Oakland snapped a four-game losing streak. The Athletics had scored only 10 runs in those four games and hit .175.
What is it about Oakland? The Red Sox are 2-9 against the Athletics since the start of last season, getting outscored, 79-35. Last season included a 20-2 loss on Aug. 31 that was bad even for that sorry team.
Wright was optioned to Pawtucket after the game. Daniel Bard will be recalled from Double A Portland. Another roster move will be needed on Sunday when Lackey returns.
The Sox could simply return rookie Alex Wilson to the minors and continue their patience with Aceves. But nights like Tuesday fray that tolerance.
“Today was a bad day,” Aceves said. “We’ll have better days than this.”