Red Sox

Aviles, Saltalamacchia stay hot in Philadelphia

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Aviles, Saltalamacchia stay hot in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA -- A week ago, both were slumping badly. Now, it seems, no one can get Mike Aviles or Jarrod Saltalamacchia out.

Aviles homered for the third straight game Sunday, and led off the game with a homer for the second day in a row, becoming the first Red Sox player in almost a century to accomplish that feat.

For the series, Aviles had five hits and four RBI.

Saltalamacchia, meanwhile, belted a three-run homer well over 400 feet to straightaway center, for his second homer in as many games. Over his last six games, he has three homers and nine RBI.

Together, they accounted for all five runs the Red Sox scored Sunday in a 5-1 win over the Philadlephia Phillies.

"It's the Mike and Salty show, back-to-back days," said Bobby Valentine. "Pretty good to see."

Not since Harry Hooper had anyone homered to lead of two straight Red Sox games, though Aviles said that was hardly his goal.

"It was definitely fun," he said. "I just went up there, trying to set the tone and get on base and fortunate to get a ball to run into the good part of the bat and get one up in the air."

"To do that two nights in a row," said Valentine, "relaxes the offense a little and lets the pitchers know at least (they) have one run when they go out there."

Aviles was struggling not long ago, and his on-base percentage had dipped well below .300, causing Valentine to take a look at Ryan Sweeney as possible options to lead off.

But Sunday, Valentine seemed to commit to Aviles as his permanent leadoff choice -- at least until either Carl Crawford or Jacoby Ellsbury return to good health.

"I see him as the guy, who, if we need a leadoff hitter, he's going to lead off and set a very aggressive pace for our team," said Valentine. "I think we need that."

"It's fine," shrugged Aviles of the assignment. "It's no different than hitting ninth, second, seventh...wherever it is, it's thew same thing. I try to take the same approach - try to get on base and let the guys behind me do the damage.

"If I get on base enough, we have enough guys on this team who can hit the ball in the gap and I know I can run a little bit. I just try to get on base and whatever happens from there, happens."

Meanwhile, Saltalamacchia has also rebounded from a recent slump. After going 0-for-5 against the Indians on May 11, Saltalamacchia had dipped to .221.

Since then, over his last six starts, he's hitting .480 (12-for-26) with three homers and nine RBI.

He also homered in each of the last two games here, a feat made all the more remarkable given that he went to the hospital Friday night after suffering a laceration of the left ear that required a dozen stitches.

The Sox already led 2-0 in the third when Saltalamacchia came up with runners on second and third and one out against Cliff Lee.

"I just made good contact on a 2-0 changeup," said Saltalamacchia, "and I was able to put good wood on it. My only thought was, man on third, I needed to get him in, any way I can and it just worked in my favor."

While emphasizing that he views his catching responsibilities as his top priority, Saltamacchia is enjoying his current hot streak at the plate.

"I feel good," he said. "I'm trying to have a good approach and put good plate appearances together."

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press

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.