GETTING THE OPENING NIGHT NOD

     Alfredo Aceves is first alphabetically in the Pawtucket Red Sox media guide, and appropriately, will get the ball on opening day Thursday at McCoy.  The Red Sox  signed the right hander to a free agent contract in February.  Aceves pitched in each of the last three seasons for the Yankees, amassing a combined 14-1 record with a 3.21 ERA.  Alfredo is pleased to get the opening assignment.  “Man, I’m happy.  There’s a responsibility to get the job done.”  He is coming off a season that limited him to just 10 appearances, due to a lower back strain.  Then he suffered a shoulder injury, while bicycle riding.

     At first,  Aceves was adamant about not wanting to talk about his past, but relented.  “No…no…no, no, no, no.  I don’t even want to talk about the Yankees.  I fell down off my bike when I was with the Yankees.  I don’t want to talk about it.  The doctor in  New York, he did the surgery.  He did real well.  He gave me the green light after a few months to throw.  I started to throw, to get myself ready.  At that time, I was a free agent.  The Red Sox saw me throw and they picked me.”

     By all accounts, Aceves had a solid spring in Fort Myers, but he is his own most harsh critic.  “I am not that happy.  At Spring Training, I was more focused to show Red Sox Nation that I was ready to play, that I work hard and that I am aggressive on the mound.  I didn’t worry about my numbers.  I didn’t care about my numbers.  Now, they know that I am healthy and that I am an aggressive pitcher.  Now I set in my mind numbers…numbers…numbers.  That’s how you get to the next level.”

     Aceves will get the highly anticipated 2011 season under way on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. at McCoy Stadium.  He quickly answered when asked about his goals for Opening night.  “Not one game.  Not one day.  The whole year.  All the year.”  While most guys keep their goals private, Aceves is the exception.  He has set lofty goals for himself.  “I want better numbers than last year.  More.  Strikeouts.  More.  Mucho.  I want the Triple Crown. (Most wins, strikeouts and lowest ERA)  I never won that before.”

     Although the uniform is not available in Pawtucket, the native of Sonora, Mexico is partial to the number 91 on his jersey.  He wears that in honor of his favorite athlete, Dennis Rodman.  Aceves has always admired “the Worm” for his work ethic and crazy off-court antics.  Aceves had to be pleased this week, as Rodman was voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.”

     If Aceves can pitch the way he did as a member of the Yankees, he could be the steal of the offseason, adding depth to the Red Sox rotation or bullpen. For now, he is the Opening Night starter for Pawtucket.  Maybe he’ll become the number one starter in Pawtucket.  After all, you can’t spell “Aceves” without the “A-C-E.”

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