Red Sox

Beckett's plan: 'Throw away the rear-view mirror'

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Beckett's plan: 'Throw away the rear-view mirror'

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Hall of Famer Satchel Paige famously warned not to "look back -- something might be gaining on you."

Josh Beckett, reflecting on his lost season of 2010, has a somewhat modified approach -- with help from his father.

"Like my dad said, 'Throw out the rear-view mirror,' " said Beckett Tuesday. "I can't change anything that's already happened. As frustrating as 2010 was, I've got to move on. This is about 2011.

"I'm not trying to change last year this year. I'm just trying to have the best 2011 I can and put this team in a position to do what we all think we're capable of: Winning another World Series."

Improvement should not be difficult for Beckett, who struggled through his worst season in the major leagues last year, going 6-6 with a 5.78 ERA in a season interrupted twice by injury and marked by underachievement.

By nearly every statistical measure, Beckett had a poor season. His hits allowed and walk totals were up and his strikeout ratio was down. In almost one-third of his starts (6 of 21) he gave up six or more runs. It was hardly the kind of performance expected from someone who helped pitch the Sox to a title in 2007 and won 17 games as recently as 2009.

Back ailments limited him and resulted in two trips to the DL. At times, he attempted to pitch through discomfort, in part contributing to the downturn. But Beckett offered no excuses for his numbers.

"At times it was a physical struggle," he said. "But things still should have been better than they were."

Beckett stumbled mentally, too. When he had a bad start, he tried to bury it with a make-good outing the next time on the mound and before long, found himself being buried.

"I think he tried too hard at times last year," offered Terry Francona, "and it kind of ganged up on him."

"You're trying to make up for two bad starts with one bad pitch," said Beckett. "In that aspect, I think we're all guilty of that from time to time, trying to do too much right now, and really all you need to focus on is this start, not five starts from now or even two pitches from now. You have to stay in the monent."

It's been theorized by some in the organization that part of Beckett's problem was subconsciously attempting to justify the four-year, 68.5 million contract extension he agreed to soon after the start of the season.

"I don't think so, but who knows?" Beckett said.

Either way, Beckett was left with an empty feeling. Since joining the team after the 2005 season, the Sox had made the postseason in three of his first four years. When they fell short last fall, done in by a rash of injuries to everyday players and an underachieving rotation, Beckett felt some of the responsibility.

"It's not a good feeling," said Beckett, "leaving the season knowing that things could have been better for the whole team if you would have just done your part."

When Beckett wasn't fighting injuries, he seemed to be fighting himself on the mound, deviating from his usual repertoire of fastball-curveball-changeup to throw too many cut fastballs. At times, he barely resembled the power pitcher who came to dominate October in 2003 and 2007.

"I definitely think there were some times when I got away from that," he agreed.

The change of approach resulted in a predictable viscious cycle. Unable to rely on his fastball and curve as he would have liked, Beckett toyed with the cutter more, and eventually, overused it.

"I think were times when I fell in love with it," said Beckett, "and I tried to use it in situations when it probably wasn't the wisest thing . . . I want to get back to mixing in every pitch in his repertoire."

Beckett underwent a slightly different offseason conditioning program, one designed to improve his core stability. The hope is that, after failing to throw 200 innings twice in the last three years, he can return to his normal workload and avoid injuries which slow him down.

"The back feels good," he said.

More than anything, Beckett would like to get some distance from 2010, which was forgettable in every way.

"I'm eager to get this thing rolling," he said. "I needed a little bit of a break for a couple of weeks there after the season ended. I obviously wasn't happy with how last year went, either for myself or the team. Basically, since then, I've been ready to go."

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

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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