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Not Grade A in ‘B’ game

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / March 2, 2012
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FORT MYERS, Fla. - Two pitchers competing for the fourth and fifth spots in the Red Sox rotation had their ups and downs in yesterday’s “B’’ game vs. the Twins at Hammond Stadium.

In Boston’s 6-5 loss, Alfredo Aceves threw 26 pitches, 17 for strikes, while allowing one run and two hits in one inning. He was followed by Daniel Bard, who also pitched one inning and threw 25 pitches with 15 strikes and also allowed one run on two hits.

Rookie catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who hit a home run in his first at-bat off veteran righthander Scott Baker - a towering shot to left field - caught both pitchers.

“Aceves and I were working on a new sign system and we pretty much stayed on the same page,’’ Lavarnway said. “He threw the ball well. His curveball had good angle on it, his fastball had good life.

“Bard didn’t have as good of a control of his two-seamer as he would have liked, but good action on his four-seamer. He threw a couple of good sliders.

“He wanted to throw a changeup to a righty and one to a lefty. The one to the righty got hit and the one to the lefty froze him.’’

Bard was working from a windup for the first time in years.

“It’s good to get the first one out of the way and feel the nerves with hitters in the box,’’ said Bard. “Felt I made some good pitches and tried some things I wouldn’t normally try in a game setting. My changeup wound up getting hit for a double, but it’s time to work on stuff.’’

Bard thinks the next big hump to get over is going three innings.

“I haven’t gone three innings for a long time, so that first time going out there is going to be a little bit different,’’ said Bard. “Not really thinking that far ahead. Just thinking one outing at a time.’’

Concerning the windup, he said, “Been doing it on my sides since the start of working out, so I’m not even thinking about it. It’s second nature now.’’

The organization seems divided on whether to keep Aceves in the bullpen, where he was the team’s top reliever last season.

Aceves, however, reiterated yesterday, “My personal opinion is I’d rather start. I like to eat innings.’’

The $1.2 million contract he signed has incentives worth up to $100,000 built in for both starting and relieving, but most pitchers prefer to start, since that has more potential for a big-money contract.

Manager Bobby Valentine’s take on the pitchers:

“Aceves was OK. He threw a lot of pitches that he wanted to work on. He was OK with his work, so I was OK with his work.

“Bard had good pitches but was upset with his selection. He threw a changeup behind in the count, 1-and-0, and then he threw the two-seamer after he hung the slider. He wasn’t too happy with that.

“But his stuff was all right. He was working on the two-seamer. He didn’t get much work on his changeup or his slider but pitched out of the windup and got that over with.’’

Attaway, Jose

Valentine thought shortstop Jose Iglesias had three good at-bats (a single and a walk) and handled everything in the field well. “He made good catches on popups, caught the grounders, and had three good at-bats.’’ . . . Valentine said Lavarnway hit the ball hard but had a couple of issues defensively, on a bad throw to second base and a passed ball with Bard pitching. “I think he can improve on his catching and I’m sure that he will,’’ Valentine said. Lavarnway on his homer: “It’s going to be downhill from there. Good to get the first two at-bats out of the way. Just happened to throw it in my happy zone.’’ Said Valentine, “Lavarnway got a little jammed and hit it 380 feet.’’

The good guys

Valentine thought the Sox “misfired’’ on a few things they’d been working on in the field, but he had praise for third baseman Will Middlebrooks (hit and walk) and first baseman Lars Anderson (double and walk). “I thought Middlebrooks looked good,’’ said the manager. “Lars Anderson looks like he’s going to be able to help the team. I don’t know if it’s going to be ours right now. Looks like one of those players everyone likes to have but sometimes doesn’t know what to do with.’’ . . . He also praised lefthander Jason Thomas, saying his pitches were “very crisp’’ . . . Relief prospect Alex Wilson struggled with control (two walks facing four batters) . . . Andrew Bailey threw his first bullpen since suffering a lat strain last week. “He said he felt better,’’ Valentine said. “Still really didn’t let go because he doesn’t want to have a setback.’’ . . . The Red Sox have not had any contact with free agent Roy Oswalt in some time, according to general manager Ben Cherington.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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