Red Sox

Crawford returns to second spot

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Crawford returns to second spot

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

NEW YORK -- With just six games left in the regular season, the Red Sox batting order went through a rather radical overhaul Saturday as Terry Francona shuffled his lineup.

Carl Crawford, who had hit sixth or seventh for much of the season, was elevated to second, with Dustin Pedroia dropped to third, David Ortiz in the cleanup spot and Adrian Gonzalez inserted in the fifth hole for the first time since Opening Day.

"I just was thinking about it lot with (bench coach) DeMarlo Hale," said Francona, "and I spoke to some of the players and I think it puts Carl in a position where he feels like he can impact us a little bit more.

"I know his on-base percentage isn't typically what you would have for somebody in the two-hole but we're in more of a shorter sample size and it seems like he's trying to swing the bat. We want him to be aggressive on the bases."

Francona said he "invited (players') opinions -- and I got some good ones. I just think it's the right thing to do. We talked about trying to lengthen that lineup out a little bit and we think this is the right way to do it."

Crawford was happy with the change.

"I'm excited about (being back at the top)," said Crawford. "I can cause a little more havoc and play the way I've always played -- try to steal bases and get on for the guys behind me. I don't have to worry about trying to hit a home run every time (I'm) at-bat -- stuff like that."

In four at-bats, he was 1-for-4 with a run-scoring double in the seventh accounting for the only run of the game.

"It was a little different,'' said Crawford. "I hadn't been there in a while. It felt a little weird. It's just something you have to get used to if I'm going to be there.''

Terry Francona hinted that he would use the same lineup -- with Crawford hitting second, Dustin Pedroia third, David Ortiz cleanup and Adrian Gonzalez fifth -- in at least one of the two games scheduled for Sunday.

Crawford said hitting sixth or seventh in the order has been "very frustrating. (Running) is a big part of my game, so to have that taken away from you is kind of tough to deal with . . . I don't know how long it's going to last but at least for the day, it feels good to be back up there."

Crawford said he was approached by some veteran players -- whom he would not name -- to propose going to Francona about the switch.

One of the consequences to the move was moving Gonzalez to fifth, which Francona allowed was part of the "give-and-take."

"I don't think it's going to affect him. The way the other guys are swinging the bat, I think it's OK. I think the positives outweigh the negatives."

Kevin Youkilis, who hit indoors Friday, spoke with Francona and will continue to test his body Saturday and Sunday and see where he is physically on Monday.

Youkilis has been hampered with a hip issue and a sports hernia and has been in great discomfort.

"He's going to keep continuing and grind through it and see where it leads him," said Francona. "I don't know where that's going to go and I don't think he does either. Is he available to pinch-hit? How much can he do? We really don't know.

"But we'll give it a couple of days here and see where it leads. We kind of have to do that."

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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