Franklin Morales is on the disabled list, unlikely to return in 2012. John Lackey has ruled out coming back to Boston this season, though, the right-hander might eventually pitch in the Arizona Fall League to get some work in. Zach Stewart, in his one start with the Sox, was pummeled and immediately sent back to Pawtucket. Who, then, is going to replace Daisuke Matsuzaka, who it sounds like is finished pitching in Boston a few weeks before his contract runs out?
With the rest of those players unavailable, Alfredo Aceves might get his shot to start once again. Aceves has been removed from the closer's role, now that Andrew Bailey is back from injury and pitching well, while Aceves struggled in a role that has been something of a roller coaster for him. Bobby Valentine started to work Aceves harder, with 143 pitches in seven innings over five days starting August 28. He mercifully let back on the throttle after that, but longer outings have been the focus as of late still.
Before August ended, we asked if the Red Sox were going to start Aceves, but space was needed in the rotation to do so. With Dice-K likely done, that space has opened up. While we're not optimistic that Aceves would be a particularly good starter, there's a lot of value in knowing for sure:
Yes, Boston could go out and sign a starting pitcher, but if the market goes crazy, as it tends to do when the game is awash in money, then that becomes more difficult to do. It's best to have backup plans around, just in case player acquisition doesn't pan out.
If Aceves doesn't show the Sox anything in a stretched out state in September, then maybe they have to turn their focus towards acquiring another pitcher with starting credentials this winter. If he all of a sudden pitches well as a starter, and the scouts like what they see out of him, then maybe that becomes less of a priority going forward. Knowing is half the battle, as some of of our era's greatest philosophers espoused.
Aceves likely isn't The Answer in terms of being one of the five starters in the 2013 rotation, but if he shows something as a starter before 2012 ends, as a little preview for spring training next year, then Boston can know a little better whether they have a backup option around. As said here, Boston's 2014 looks potentially excellent for internal starting options, but 2013 is looking grim: any additional help is welcome.
On the other hand, if Aceves bombs as a starter in this limited preview, then he's run out of roles in which he can be potentially successful. That would likely send him back to those middle innings of long relief that he was so good in back in 2011; it's something of a win-win situation for the Red Sox, even if Aceves has a clear preference for his usage.