Red Sox

First pitch: Time to look ahead in the rotation

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First pitch: Time to look ahead in the rotation

Aaron Cook's poor start Tuesday night -- five runs on 11 hits over five innings -- was merely the latest in a series, marking the third time in his last five outings that he's given up five or more runs and the fourth time in that span that he's failed to get through the sixth inning.

Over that span, Cook is 1-4 with a 6.92 ERA. For the season, his ERA is just under 5.00.

In turn, that led to some speculation that when Cook's spot next comes up in the rotation -- Sunday against Kansas City -- he'll be replaced by Daisuke Matsuzaka.

In what may or may not be a coincidence, Matsuzaka also pitched Tuesday -- at Pawtucket, as part of his rehab from a muscle pull in his shoulder -- and pitched effectively, tossing seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit.

That bit of neat timing would make it easy to simply plug Matsuzaka into Cook's spot for the remainder of the season, with Cook either going to the bullpen, dealt through waivers or released altogether.

"It's much too early to figure that one out," said manager Bobby Valentine when asked if Matsuzaka would take Cook's spot the next time through the rotation. "We'll watch the film tomorrow, see Dice, see how he feels and talk it over with everyone."

But while Matsuzaka has pitched effectively on his rehab, that would be a sideways move. Even if Matsuzaka turned in seven or so strong starts in the final six weeks, it would prove nothing.

Matsuzaka is a free agent at the end of the season and, obviously, isn't about to be re-signed by the Sox. He has next-to-no trade value -- the waiver deadline deal is just nine days away -- and even if he did, he has a full no-trade clause to further complicate matters.

More to the point, with the Sox falling farther back from contention with each paassing day, Matsuzaka's presence proves little. Maybe he could pitch effectively a handful of times for the remainder of the season, but toward what end? So the Red Sox can finish with 80 wins instead of 78?

At this point, the Red Sox need to frame every personnel move in the final months and a half through one question and one question only: Is this helping us get ready for 2013?

The answer regarding Matsuzaka, of course is: no. He'll be pitching somewhere else -- either in his native Japan or for some other team in the big leagues.

Every start Matsuzaka gets is a start taken away from someone who could be building toward next season.
If the Sox gave Cook's spot to, say, Felix Doubront, that would make infinitely more sense. Doubront has been sidelined with a combination of fatigue and knee issues, but will be eligible to come off the DL this weekend.

In a perfect world, the Sox would have some highly-regarded prospect at Triple A whom they could begin introducing to the big leagues. Alas, they do not. The team's best starting pitching prospect is probably Matt Barnes, who has yet to reach Double A, much less Triple A.

Without an obvious candidate in the minor leagues, Doubront should be the choice.

Doubront figures to be part of the Red Sox' rotation in 2013; Matsuzaka will most assuredly not.

That alone should point the Red Sox in the right direction.

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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