Red Sox

Converting Bard to starter will be no easy task

586520.jpg

Converting Bard to starter will be no easy task

DALLAS -- Around baseball, it's become a trend: relievers being converted into starters.

The Texas Rangers, two-time defending American League champions, plan on moving Neftali Feliz, their closer, into the rotation while using newly-signed Joe Nathan to close.

The Rangers know their way around the process, having converted both C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando from relievers into starters in previous seasons. The Baltimore Orioles are planning on doing the same with Joe Johnson.

And now the Red Sox are contemplating the switch, too, with Daniel Bard.

But the move comes with some risks and challenges.

With Bard, the Sox must first be assured that he can make the transition successfully. Further, they have to have another candidate in mind who can handle the high-leverage set-up innings that Bard has locked down the last two seasons.

As a late-inning reliever, Bard has had the luxury of relying on just two overpowering pitches: his fastball and slider. To succeed as a starter and face the same hitters three times in the same game, he'll need to master a third pitch.

"He's got a changeup that's been good," said Red Sox GM Ben Cherington. "He's been in situations at times where he really hasn't needed to use it. There have been outings where he has used it and it's been really good. Certainly the reps that you get as a starter in spring training and the time in between give him a chance to work on that more.

"He certainly has a lot of the characteristics we think that go into making a good starter, but most importantly, his mindset is in a good place. He's prepared to do this and also prepared to pitch in a different role if that's what the team needs."

Bard isn't the only Red Sox reliever who could switch jobs in 2012. Alfredo Aceves, who made 51 of his 55 appearances out of the bullpen, could also be used in the rotation.

The prospect of having two pitchers on the same staff increase their workload dramatically in the same year could put a strain on the staff and is something the Red Sox have to weigh.

"It's something that's part of the calculus, certainly," agreed Cherington, "figuring out how the entire pitching staff works. It's not just: Can they do it from a talent standpoint? But it's (also) 'here's the innings that we have to fill over the course of a 162-game season and do we have enough to fill it.

"There are guys who have done it. C.J. Wilson did. Texas has done that a couple of times now. We think that those two guys could have a chance to do it. They keep themselves in really good shape and they're going to prepare well and they're talented. But it's certainly a factor."

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

mlb_rob_manfred_081414.jpg

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

cy_young_corey_kluber_chris_sale_111517.jpg

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE