Red Sox

Crawford's spot in lineup still to be determined

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Crawford's spot in lineup still to be determined

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- So now we know ''how much'' (142 million over the next seven years) and "where" (left field in Boston) regarding Carl Crawford.

Still to be answered: when? As in: when will Crawford's turn come in the Red Sox batting order?

In the past, Crawford was said to be disinclined to batting leadoff.

For much of his major league career, Crawford has hit either first (367 games), second (590 games) or third (201 games) for the Tampa Bay Rays.

At his introductory press conference at Fenway Saturday, Crawford said he had no real objection to hitting first.

''I really don't mind hitting anywhere in the lineup,'' said Crawford. "I think those statements (about not wanting to hit leadoff) came when I was a little younger in my career and (that statement) kind of stayed with me, that I didn't like hitting leadoff. But I definitely don't have a problem hitting anywhere.

"As far as knowing where I'm going to hit, Terry's the manager and I'm pretty sure whatever lineup he makes out, I'll be fine with. I told him I didn't mind (hitting) anywhere; whatever he wants to do with me is fine.''

"When we went down to visit him (in Houston),'' recounted Francona, "we talked about where he was comfortable hitting in the batting order. He was kind of telling me, 'I can hit first, I can hit second, I can hit third.' I told him, 'What we want you do to do is be yourself. We'll sit down with Carl, Pedey (Dustin Pedroia)...obviously, he's going to hit in the top of the order -- (probably) second or third.''

"There are some things to think about,'' said Francona. "It's not an issue for me, because we're not asking to do different things because they're hitting in a different area. We just want them to be the players they are and we'll line it up the way we think it works best.

One of the factors that Francona must address is maintaining as much left-right-left balance in his lineup with a team which has five lefty hitters (Jacoby Ellsbury, Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz and J.D. Drew) among its seven best offensive players.

"At some point,'' said Francona, "we're going to have two (lefty hitters) -- maybe three on some days -- in a row. Thankfully, they're good hitters. We'll try to line it up. I need to do some thinking about that.

"The last couple of years, David and J.D. haven't been quite as strong against lefthanders; Adrian has. So there are ways to line it up where you can take away some of the other managers' (flexibility).''

In 2009, Ellsbury's last full healthy season, he improved his ability to get on base with a .355 OBP and is the likely choice to return there.

"I think I've been pretty consistent all along -- our best team is when Jacoby is hitting first,'' said Francona, "whether that's Opening Day, or it's May 1...Whatever is in his best interest, ends up being in our best interest. You know, he missed pretty much the full year. If he's ready to (hit leadoff), that's great. If he's not, we'll give him a little bit of a break and hit him down in the order a little bit. We've done that in the past
and we can do it again.

"But I still think our best lineup is when (Ellsbury) leads off.''

In that scenario, Ellsbury would be followed by, in order: Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Ortiz, Drew, the catcher, and Marco Scutaro.

If Ellsbury isn't fully healthy or is unavailable, another option under consideration would be use Drew, whose lifetime OBP is a stellar .387, as the leadoff hitter.

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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