Red Sox

Bullpen adds more successful innings to workload

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Bullpen adds more successful innings to workload

BOSTON Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine gave his starting pitchers a vote of confidence after Thursday night's 83 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park.

Perhaps that's all he can do, at this point. With Josh Beckett chased from the game in the third inning after allowing seven runs on seven hits and two walks, it made for another night of hefty relief work from the Red Sox bullpen.

Six-and-two-thirds innings, to be exact. Andrew Miller, Rich Hill, Scott Atchison, Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves combined to allow just one Indians run after relieving Beckett. It marks the fourth time in the last seven games that the Red Sox bullpen has pitched more than six innings.

Red Sox relievers have now pitched 48.2 innings with a 1.66 ERA in nine games since the start of May. Since May 1, Red Sox starters have pitched just 42.1 innings.

"It's challenging every night," said Valentine. "And the relievers are doing a great job. They're getting ready. They're coming in throwing strikes, quality pitches. I tip my hat to them.

"I think when we start getting some consistent innings early in the game from the starters, things will look a lot better."

So Valentine can either pray that the offense decides to bust out and win some of these marathon bullpen affairs. Or, he can hope for what this team truly needs to have happen: his starting pitchers showing up on a more consistent basis.

Because right now, even after seeing the bullpen throw 6.2 more innings of work, the Red Sox are saying that they're not yet concerned about the heavy workload this early in the year.

"You have spurts where you get a lot of innings, and then you'll have spurts where the starters are lights out, throwing seven and eight innings, every time, and you're not getting as many innings," said reliever Scott Atchison after Thursday night's loss. "So no concern, really, there. I think everybody's feeling good and feeling strong. And we kind of got through the Kansas City trip all right, and I think everybody's ready to go.

"The starters have proven it too many times before," added Atchison. "So, we know they're going to pick it up, and get to throwing the ball well. And when that happens, everything should start rolling."

Atchison's has thrown a Major League-leading 22 relief innings, and Thursday's appearance marked his Major League-high seventh outing of at least two innings this season.

He himself has held opponents scoreless in his last seven appearances.

"When you come into those games, I think everybody's just trying to put up zeros and give us a chance to get back into the game a little bit," said Atchison after Thursday's loss. "We were able to do that a little bit tonight. Everybody threw great. I think Andrew Miller kind of set the tone from the get-go, when he came in, and we all just kind of followed suit."

"The 'pen's been doing great," said Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach. "They've been throwing the ball well. We've been asking them to do a lot here the last few weeks, and they've done a great job for us. We're fortunate that they've been throwing the ball so well."

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, the relievers have been the only ones doing that.

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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