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Random Red Sox thoughts from Cleveland

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  April 18, 2013 09:15 AM

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CLEVELAND — The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will have a Rolling Stones exhibition starting on May 24. That doesn't do me much good on April 18. But no visit to Cleveland would be complete without walking around the Hall and trying to learn a little something about music.

But first, a few random observations about the Red Sox:

• Alfredo Aceves is an interesting cat. The protocol for starting pitchers when they come out of the game is to wait around until the inning ends then go in the clubhouse to get their arm iced.

Aceves, who doesn't ice, stays in the dugout for the entire game. Last night, he was in full uniform 35 minutes after the game, including his spikes, and was walking around the clubhouse bouncing a baseball. At least half the players had already showered, dressed and left.

• In case you are wondering, John Farrell has the same alcohol policy as last year. The players can have beer after games on the road and on the team charter but not on the charter when it's heading back to Boston.

It's a liability issue more than a moral one. Almost every team is cognizant of what a bad idea it is to provide free alcohol to players and then putting them behind the wheel of a car.

• The Red Sox were so damaged by injuries last season, it probably didn't much matter who the manager and the coaches were. That team wasn't going to get anywhere. But the petty bickering between Bobby Valentine and his coaches and the lack of pre-game preparation surely cost the Sox a few games along the way.

It's revealing to see how well organized the Sox are this season. Have you noticed, for instance, their defensive positioning? Or the general lack of mistakes when it comes to executing fundamentals? The pitchers are noticeably better at fielding their position.

• Andrew Bailey has said all the right things since the Sox acquired Joel Hanrahan. But it's clear now that he's closing again that he doesn't intend to give the job back without a fight. Bailey is throwing the ball as well as he did with Oakland, elevating his fastball by hitters and commanding the strike zone.

"My velocity’s back, my stuff’s back and my confidence is there," Bailey said on Wednesday. "When you’re coming back from an injury and you miss a bunch of months it’s tough, but you’ve still got to go out there and produce and I didn’t. So they acquired Joel, which I totally understand, and we’ll see what happens when he gets back."

The Sox are into Hanrahan for a year and control Bailey for two. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. Relievers, by nature, are inconsistent. If Bailey is hot, the Sox might be wise to ride him as long as they can.

Hanrahan, who will be a free agent after the season, will surely be eager to show his worth once he returns from the disabled list.

• David Ortiz is 3 for 15 at Pawtucket with no extra-base hits or walks. He'll play for the Paw Sox again tonight and seems likely to be activated on Friday.

Big Papi hasn't swung the bat well at all. There's a chance being in the big leagues and seeing pitchers he knows will change all that overnight. That can happen with veterans. But you also could be looking at a few weeks more of his ramping up.

• The Sox have gotten strong production (.275/.463/.500) out of their DHs without Ortiz, by the way.

• Jackie Bradley Jr. has played his way into being optioned back to the minors. But the idea that being demoted could somehow bruise his confidence is way off. Here's what he told me on Wednesday afternoon:

“It’s still early in the season. I’m not going to let this — 30 at-bats or whatever — define me. It’s not a sprint; it’s a freaking marathon. This isn’t how my career is going to turn out," he said.

“If I happen to go down, I’ll know I sucked my first go-around but I’ll be looking forward to the next time I get the chance. I’ve been through some tough times but I’ll keep grinding all season. It’s 10 or 11 games out of a season. There’s a long way to go.”

• The idea of paying Shane Victorino $39 million over three years seemed a little nutty at the time the Sox did it. But he has had either a hit, walk or RBI in every game so far and played Gold Glove defense in right field.

"He's got one of the best outfield arms in the game. It's strong and accurate," Hanrahan said. "People underrate his arm."

Said Dustin Pedroia: "Hurts my hand every time I catch it. He has a gun."

• Koji Uehara is fun to watch. He throws strikes, works fast then runs in the dugout and wants to high-five everybody. Outside of Hideki Matsui when he was with the Yankees, I've never seen a Japanese player so universally liked by his teammates as Uehara is.

• Jonny Gomes is a classic case of not judging a book by its cover. You see the crazy beard, all the tattoos and the aggressive play and it's easy to wonder from afar what kind of guy he might be. But in getting to know him, he's a person who cares about the game a lot, cares about his teammates and wants to win.

That said, once Bradley goes down, will the Red Sox expose Gomes to playing the outfield and facing righthanded hiitters? He has played two innings in the field all season and had 14 plate appearances against righties.

• Jose Iglesias is 3 of 19 since going back to Pawtucket and has struck out seven times. You could see that coming a mile away given how disappointing it had to be for him to get sent down after playing well. You really have to wonder, will he be a fringe player all his career or figure it out?

• From the first day of spring training, Jon Lester has looked like a player bent on changing the story. He didn't necessarily lose a lot of weight, but he clearly got in better shape and it shows in his pitching. He also has taken it upon himself to be one of the team spokesmen.

Example: When reporters from Cleveland crowded into the Sox clubhouse on Tuesday to ask about the Marathon bombings, Lester stood at his locker and answered questions for 20 minutes.

He understood that as a veteran of the organization, it was his duty to represent the team at a time when people wanted to know what Red Sox players were thinking. It's the kind of thing that he would have let somebody else handle in previous years. But Lester knows he's one of the team leaders now.

• Stephen Drew is 2 for 19 and because of his last name, some knuckleheads will be bent on disliking him. I still think he's going to be OK. He's not getting much return on the contact he is making and that will turn.

• Hitting coach Greg Colbrunn has some work to do with Will Middlebrooks. The third baseman has power and with that will come strikeouts. But only three walks in 59 plate appearances?

• Fenway Park is sure to be an emotional place this weekend when the team gets home. The old ballpark is only a mile away from where the bombings were and security will be ratcheted up. Give yourself plenty of time to get into the park.

• Finally, you should know that a bunch of present-day and former Red Sox are reaching out to find ways to help victims of the attack, especially the children. They're contacting people behind the scenes and offering ways to help.

So be happy your squad is 10-4. But be prouder of that.

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