Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves and Felix Doubront didn’t do much to make the Red Sox’s decision for them in their final bids for the two openings in the rotation.
Bard followed the solid outings by Aceves and Doubront yesterday with six innings of three-run ball against the Twins on Friday. A Justin Morneau double was the only extra-base hit he allowed, and he struck out seven and walked three on his way to a win.
It figures to be Bard’s final official outing of the spring, barring a move to send him to the pen and have him make a relief appearance early next week. He went 2-2 with a 6.57 ERA and an 18/16 K/BB ratio in 24 2/3 innings.
Aceves and Doubront both outpitched Bard, who was the clear favorite for the fourth spot going into the spring. Aceves had a 5.50 ERA, but nine of the 11 earned runs he allowed came in one outing and he was very good in the other four. Doubront had a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 innings.
The guess is that Doubront will be the fifth starter, since he wouldn’t be the same kind of weapon out of the pen than Bard or Aceves would be. Bard still appears to be the favorite for the fourth spot, if only by default. One thing working in his favor: it’s doubtful the Red Sox would consider returning him to the rotation later after starting him in the pen. Aceves, on the other hand, is versatile enough to go back and forth if needed.
The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.
At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.
Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.
Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.