DALLAS — On a Red Sox  team that featured both Jonathan Papelbon  and Daniel Bard , a case can be made that the most value member of the bullpen was Alfredo Aceves . The right-hander, signed to a bargain-rate $650,000 contract in February after the Yankees  made the decision not to tender him a contract in the winter, proved a force in multiple roles.
In 55 games (4 starts) and 114 innings, Aceves was 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA. He made relief appearances of three- and four-innings at a time, pitched as a one-inning setup man for Bard and Papelbon and stepped in for occasional spot starts. He was duct tape for whatever hole the Red Sox had, becoming, in his own words, “a multi-pitcher.”
Yet at a few different points, Aceves also made clear his career preference. Ultimately, he wants to start. That has not changed, his agent, Tom O’Connell, said at the winter meetings, and so this offseason, Aceves has been engaged enthusiastically in an offseason workout program to prepare him to compete for a rotation spot in spring training.
“He’s said all along, he wants to start. They’re giving him that opportunity. You know the kind of competitor he is, so I like his chances of being in the rotation,” said O’Connell. “He’s got enough stuff. The key to being a starter is to go deep into the game and make sure you have enough stuff to keep getting them out. With his array of pitches, he can.
“I think it’s a natural progression,” added O’Connell. “I personally think some guys can do both, but for me, you have to have the pitches. Great relievers are two-pitch guys. Most great starters, they have a variety of three or four pitches they can throw for strikes in any count and any situation. Obviously, Aceves has that. I think he has the stuff to be a very successful pitcher.”
Aceves was non-tendered by the Yankees over concern about his physical condition. He missed most of 2010 with back issues, then broke his collarbone while on a bicycle in Mexico during the offseason.
But any conditioning questions that might have accompanied him to Boston faded while he was there. Aceves was viewed by teammates as one of the most committed conditioning fanatics on the team. He embraced not only that workout program but also an improved nutrition program in order to remain strong through the end of the season.
Over the final nine weeks of the season, Aceves had a 1.37 ERA in 46 innings. He pitched in each of the final four days of the season, allowing just one run in 7 1/3 innings and nearly carrying a faltering Sox bullpen to the playoffs.
Still, his wide array of pitches — fastball, curveball, cutter, changeup — works against both lefties and righties, and gives him a number of looks that would suggest the possibility of starting. At the least, it is something that the Sox appear willing to explore in spring training, and a possibility that Aceves seems to relish.
“He’s a fierce competitor and a guy who wants to win,” O’Connell said of his arbitration-eligible client. “You’re going to get his best effort every time.”