BOSTON -- With John Lackey likely to return from the 15-day disabled list on Sunday, Alfredo Aceves has gone from a starter in the Red Sox's rotation to just another depth guy at Triple-A Pawtucket.
On Thursday afternoon, manager John Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington explained the decision to send Aceves to the Minors, noting that it was purely a performance-based move and completely unrelated to personality issues or a lack of focus, as Aceves showed in Spring Training when he was reprimanded by Farrell for not giving 100 percent in batting practice.
"This was not about a lack of effort," Cherington said. "He's a hard worker. This was just strictly a matter of performance. He just wasn't getting enough guys out. He hasn't for a while. Guys have moved ahead of him, so he's got to go down and earn it back. There's going to be 25 different guys in the clubhouse and they're not always going to be the same, but in his case, it's a performance-based decision and he's got to pitch better."
Aceves will continue to work out of a starting role in Pawtucket, but with Franklin Morales progressing, No. 4 prospect Allen Webster pitching well and Rubby De La Rosa working his way back from Tommy John surgery, there could be more attractive options should the club need another starter down the road.
Aceves has been much better as a reliever throughout his career, posting a 3.56 ERA out of the bullpen as opposed to a 5.04 ERA out of the rotation, but Farrell said the Red Sox don't have a need for him as a reliever.
"He is a depth starter for us," Farrell said. "Whether that's six, seven, eight or nine is more predicated on rest and who's available on a given day.
"There are other guys ahead of him in that bullpen role. I can't say that the performance issues we talked about were solely in a starter's role. Again, good question, but we have other people who are ahead of him, and regardless of the role, there's got to be that consistency that we're talking about."
Lackey, who made a speedy recovery from a right biceps strain that looked like it could have been worse than the diagnosis, should return Sunday to take Aceves' spot in the rotation. Even if Lackey can pitch only five innings, the Red Sox have an off-day Monday for the bullpen to recover, if needed.
"Once the strain settled down, and the fact that he was able to get out and make a rehab start was encouraging with no restrictions there," Farrell said. "He didn't feel any discomfort of any kind. He'll go into Sunday, provided tomorrow he checks out and is on line for Sunday, he should go in with little hesitation from a mental standpoint in that start."
Sore back keeps Victorino out of starting lineup
BOSTON -- Right fielder Shane Victorino was held out of the Red Sox's lineup for Thursday's game against the Astros with lower back stiffness and is considered day to day for now.
Victorino reinjured his back while taking a check swing in the sixth inning of Wednesday's 6-5 win against the A's and was removed the next inning. Mike Carp got the nod in left field Thursday, pushing Daniel Nava to right field while hitting second.
Manager John Farrell said he doesn't expect the injury to Victorino to be a long-term one, but the Sox will be more careful this time.
"We won't even consider putting him in the lineup until he's symptom-free, and even then, it might be best-served to give him one additional day after that," Farrell said. "We're going to go on when he's free and clear of the symptoms."
The team is hoping the symptoms will be gone within a couple days.
"We're certainly very optimistic that it's just going to remain a day to day thing, and we'll be able to avoid the DL," said general manager Ben Cherington. "That hasn't even been discussed. We'll see. The time of the year, there's probably a way he can get out and play tonight. I think we're all trying to manage a six- and seven-month season and do the right thing for him. Hopefully it won't be too long."
Lavarnway's stay in Majors likely temporary
BOSTON -- Ryan Lavarnway didn't make his first appearance at Fenway Park until the final two months of the 2011 and '12 seasons in his first two stints in the Majors, but with the need for an extra bat off the bench, the Red Sox recalled him on Thursday.
The catcher is expected to be used sparingly until Sunday, when John Lackey will likely return and take Lavarnway's spot on the roster.
"Off the bench, potential pinch-hit," manager John Farrell said of Lavarnway's expected usage. "With the option of Alfredo [Aceves] and to be able to have another player active for a potential matchup situation. We're probably going to use the same spot Sunday for Lackey. Ryan will come off the bench."
Lavarnway is hitting .310 with an .875 OPS in 11 games with Triple-A Pawtucket this season.
"I'm feeling good at the plate," Lavarnway said. "What it comes down to is, I just have to be ready for a battle every pitch -- and I just have to win that battle."
With Shane Victorino ailing, the Red Sox would have liked to add another outfielder to the roster, but No. 2 prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. cannot be recalled until he's been with Triple-A Pawtucket for at least 10 days. The only other outfielders on the 40-man roster, Alex Hassan and Ryan Kalish, are currently injured.
"If we need, we can get through a game and adjust accordingly if need be," Farrell said. "But one, Jackie wasn't eligible to come back, and two, we felt like we'll stand pat and take the best bat that was available at Pawtucket, and Ryan is that guy. The roster is another issue we've got to contend with."
Hockey returning to Fenway Park next winter
BOSTON -- The frozen rink just looked all too natural on Fenway Park the past few winters, so the Red Sox are bringing it back again.
The Sox announced "Frozen Fenway 2014" will return next January, this time featuring two doubleheaders between some of the area's best Division 1 college hockey programs.
On Jan. 4, Merrimack College will play Providence College followed by Notre Dame against Boston College, the only team to have played in every Frozen Fenway event since its inception in 2010.
On Jan. 11, UMass Lowell will take on Northeastern before Boston University skates against the University of Maine.
"We are excited about the return of hockey to Fenway Park," said Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna. "We are particularly pleased that with these two doubleheaders, all of our men's programs will have had the opportunity to experience Frozen Fenway, including the University of Notre Dame, our newest member."
The Red Sox will have two open-skating days available to the public for free on Dec. 29 and Jan. 1. There will also be a chance for local high school teams to play on the big stage.
"Last year, more than 90,000 people came to Fenway Park to watch college and high school hockey or to enjoy free, public skating," said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "This generated tens of millions of dollars for local business. I'm confident that top-notch outdoor college hockey at Fenway Park will make for another unforgettable experience, drawing fans from across the region and serving as a major platform to showcase the people, culture, and local businesses that make our city special."
• Morales, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained lower back, initially had his rehab assignment with Double-A Portland halted because of pectoral soreness, and general manager Ben Cherington said the Red Sox are handling Morales on a day to day basis.
• David Ortiz was in the lineup batting fourth as the designated hitter Thursday, but Farrell said the team will continue to take a cautious approach, sprinkling in frequent off-days. On Tuesday, the Red Sox will begin a series in Toronto on the turf field of Rogers Centre, and Farrell said that could be a situation where Ortiz gets two straight days off.
"Part of that will be on how David comes out of each and every game," Farrell said. "He's been tested on the basepaths right from the get-go, and he's responded very well."
• Will Middlebrooks has 26 strikeouts in 20 games, but Farrell said the issues with Middlebrooks' swing are not mechanical.
"We've got to get him back to swinging at strikes, first and foremost," Farrell said. "That will allow that swing to play. He's expanded the zone up. He's expanded the zone off the plate. When he swings at strikes, he puts a very consistent swing on the pitch."
• The Astros spent much of Thursday afternoon touring the confines of Fenway Park. They haven't been to Fenway since 2003, when the two teams met for the first time.
• The Red Sox have won all seven of their series-opening contests heading into Thursday night's game with the Astros. With 14 victories this month, the Sox have surpassed their April win total for the last three years (11 wins each).