Alfredo Aceves is a talented pitcher. He has allowed only 113 hits over 139.1 career innings with 33 walks and 94 strikeouts There aren't too many guys out there with a career 3.17 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP.
Part of his being good is being stubborn and a little arrogant. Aceves firmly believes he should be a major league starter and that if he were, he would be a good one. But there comes a time when being stubborn intersects with being stupid. That happened last night.
Aceves was called for a balk in the eighth inning with the Red Sox up 1-0. It moved Dennard Span to second base and he scored from there on a broken-bat single by Jason Kubel off Jonathan Papelbon.
Aceves was trying to keep Span close when he was called for the balk by umpire Angel Hernandez. He set his feet in what looked like a wind-up position then shifted to a stretch position. He got away with it once but not a second time.
(Tim Britton of the Providence Journal explained the technicalities well over on their blog.)
When Hernandez made the call, he called Terry Francona out to explain. Francona didn't argue. The Red Sox knew what Aceves was doing was wrong and they've been trying to break him of it. It was the second time in as many appearances that Aceves was called for a balk.
"(Hernandez) was probably right. I don't know why he didn't call it on the first (pitch). We were trying to get (Aceves') attention on the first pitch, and when they didn't call it, we thought we were OK," Francona said.
Aceves was demonstrative afterward, literally going through his motion in the clubhouse to try and explain what he did and why he didn't think he was wrong. The move, he said, was something he picked from watching former Yankees minor league teammate Eric Hacker.
"I don't understand what I'm doing wrong," he said. "I'm trying to hold the runner. But they told me it's wrong. I guess I have to change."
The Sox won the game. The question now becomes whether Aceves can be trusted not to get creative at the wrong time again. The balk rule is convoluted. But when your team tells you to knock it off, you knock it off.
"We've got to get Aceves to quit doing that. He did it in spring training," said Francona, who noted that pitching coach Curt Young spoke to Aceves. "We don't want to invite (or) ever give somebody a chance to call something."
The Yankees nontendered Aceves last December, in part, because he was somewhat of a pain in the posterior. He's a quirky guy, quick to anger and not quite mindful that he has only parts of three seasons in the big leagues and isn't an All-Star.
I personally think Aceves genuinely wants to win and is doing what he thinks he right. He's not a bad guy based on my experiences with him. But there comes a time when you have to do what you're told by your boss.
The alternative is pitching in Pawtucket — or looking for a job.