FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It seems almost unfathomable that at this time a year ago, Alfredo Aceves was battling just to make the team. And it's even harder to believe that he was initially unsuccessful in that quest, serving two stints at Triple-A before joining the Red Sox for good on May 6.
These days, Aceves is considered indispensable.
He certainly looked it on Saturday night, firing three shutout innings against the Rays in a 5-0 win.
"From what I've seen, he may be one of our best pitchers," said pitching coach Bob McClure. "I'm not talking about throwers. I'm not talking about stuff. But from a pitching standpoint, he's very advanced as far as knowing what to do and when to do it and commanding a baseball at all different speeds."
Though Aceves pitched in relief of Daniel Bard on Saturday, he is very much in the mix to win a spot in the rotation. If he doesn't he becomes what he was last year -- an invaluable pitcher out of the bullpen.
"He's someone we have to really seriously look at as a possible guy in that starting rotation," McClure said.
"He had everyone off balance, mixed his pitches, had great movement, looked like good location," said manager Bobby Valentine.
If the job was awarded solely on ability, Aceves would probably win the fifth spot. The real question is whether the bullpen would have enough to cover for his absence.
"I think the front office has done a very good thing as far as signing guys that are capable of possibly doing that, but there's so many guys vying for the fourth and fifth spot right now, it's a little different," said McClure. "We have [Felix] Doubront, who's vying for a starting spot, who might be able to do the same thing, but he's younger. There's [Vicente] Padilla, who's in the mix as a starter but might be able to do the same thing. It's a puzzle that I haven't quite figured out yet."