Red Sox

Aviles proving he's fit for the shortstop job

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Aviles proving he's fit for the shortstop job

BOSTON -- When guys do their jobs, things just start to come together in a 162-game Major League Baseball season.

Mike Aviles might just be the perfect example of a guy doing his job.

The Red Sox shortstop carousel has almost always been a major topic of discussion since 2004. But in 2012, Aviles has held down the fort, and it's no longer a position that anyone is talking about, which is a good thing.

Aviles is only hitting .260 after Tuesday's 5-0 win over the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park. He finished the game 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI while hitting ninth.

But what is sticking out the most is his terrific defense at short, which Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine called "huge" before the game.

"He's made all the progressions," said Valentine in his pregame press conference. "He's learning to move with hitters and to position himself properly. He always knows the speed of the runner. He's been huge. The stability of him has been huge for our defense."

And Aviles didn't make Valentine look stupid on Tuesday against the Mariners. Because a few hours later, he made the defensive play of the game, in the second inning.

With one out and nobody on in the top of the second, Kyle Seager hit a 1-1 pitch up the middle, and Aviles chased it down to his left, and dove in the direction of center field, snagging the ball with his glove in the grass. He quickly got up and fired a seed to first for the out.

Afterwards, Aviles admitted that the effort to make that play was fueled even more so by the fact that he wanted to have Josh Beckett's back.

"It was just one of those plays where I was shaded a little bit up the middle, and you know, Josh Beckett is one heck of a teammate, regardless of how people portray him at times," said Aviles when asked about the diving play. "He is a really, really good teammate, and he's here for us. So, anytime he's on the mound, or any pitcher on the mound for that matter, we're trying to get their back, because we know they've got our back."

Aviles was just one of many strongly supporting Beckett after Tuesday's win. But there were also players supporting Aviles, and his defensive efforts this season.

"He's been great," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia after Tuesday's win. "He's been working real hard and he's making a ton of great plays out there and saving a lot of runs for us. He's doing an awesome job."

Aviles also produced at the plate on Tuesday, and it began with an RBI double to right-center in the bottom of the fourth that put the Red Sox up 2-0. He added an another RBI in the bottom of the eighth after dropping a double down the left-field line, giving Boston a 5-0 lead.

He said he's just trying to hang with the big boys.

"I've just been fortunate," said Aviles. "It feels good, playing on a team like this, where everybody pretty much is a really good hitter. It's a little easier to feed off some energy from other players.

"I'm trying not to be the weak link, is pretty much what it comes down to. I don't want to be that guy that always gets out. So, when you've got guys like Papi Ortiz, Pedey Pedroia, Gonzo Adrian Gonzalez, I mean, they're non-stop getting hits and RBIs, I kind of want to join the parade too."

Aviles was one of the leaders of the parade, both offensively and defensively, on Tuesday.

And as shortstop of the Boston Red Sox, he's just doing his job.

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

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Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

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