Red Sox

Francona: Lineup tweak not permanent

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Francona: Lineup tweak not permanent

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

HOUSTON -- Matched against left-hander C.J. Wilson in Friday's season opener, the Red Sox starting lineup will feature Mike Cameron -- and not J.D. Drew -- in right field against the Texas Rangers.

Terry Francona made the announcement Thursday morning, revealing his batting order for Opening Day: Jacoby Ellsbury, CF; Dustin Pedroia, 2B; Carl Crawford, LF; Kevin Youkilis, 3B; Adrian Gonzalez 1B: David Ortiz, DH; Mike Cameron, RF; Jarrod Saltalamacchia C; and Marco Scutato, SS.

"I talked to J.D. about four or five days ago," said Francona, "and I kind of knew where I wanted to go there. I really didn't want J.D. to have to answer a bunch of questions. I talked to Cameron, also. He knew."

"We talked about it," said Drew. "We're in a good position in the outfield to have some guys like Cameron and Darnell McDonald to fill in against tough lefties. It's one of those situations for me, playing as long as I have, to kick back and watch those guys. It gives us an opportunity to win ballgames in those situations, so it will be good.''

"I'm very grateful for the opportunity," said Cameron. "I knew coming into this season, I was on a different perspective than I've been in throughout my career. When Tito called me into the office yesterday, I was kind of scared. I thought J.D. was hurt or something. I knew I was going to play some against lefties, but I wasn't expecting to play Opening Day, but the opportunity that I'm getting is very special. I'm looking forward to it.''
Francona emphasized this was not an indication that he intends to deploy a strict platoon throughout the season and that decisions on who plays right field against lefthanded would be on a case-by-case basis.

"This will not be a platoon," stated Francona. "J.D. knows that."

"This is a long grind throughout the year and it's one of those situations where he just wanted to get my feelings on it," said Drew. "Honestly, it's one of those things where I've been part of a lot of Opening Days and a chance to help this team win ballgames in whatever way it will be, it works out well.''

It's also likely that most nights, Gonzalez will be hitting fourth with Youkilis behind him at the No. 5 spots. But again, the presence of Wilson had Francona attempting to get more right-handed bats higher in the lineup.

"We'll try to keep as much balance as we can," said Francona. "If we swing it like we should, those types of decisions aren't that big. 'Common sense' is a phrase we hope we're using. It's not really that tactical . . . They're good hitters. They're going to be good hitters, whether they're hitting fourth or fifth."

Francona said he had this basic lineup in mind as soon as the Red Sox signed Crawford and traded for Gonzalez over the winter. The other decision came in evaluating Ellsbury's readiness for the leadoff spot after missing all but 18 games last season.

"He looked like he was ready," said Francona. "If it looked like he was scuffling a little bit, we could have moved him to the bottom of the order. When Jake is swinging the bat well, him leading off gives us a different look.

Francona also gave some thought to sitting David Ortiz in the opener, but thought that might send the wrong message given Ortiz's struggles against lefties this year and the attention the issue brought last April.

Wilson was dominant against left-handed hitters last season, limiting them to a .144 batting average against. Lefties slugged just .176 against him and he allowed just five extra-base hits -- all doubles -- in 153 at-bats.

"Wilson is so tough on lefties," said Francona. "He's tough on everybody. But he dominated lefties most of the time last year. We've got to make him throw a lot of strikes. If we swing early, he could have an easy time. We don't want to do that."

Drew, like his manager, warned not to read much into the moves.

"Opening Day is the excitement of the new season, a lot of fun to amp up andreally have an opportunity to reflect on what's coming up ahead of you," he said. "But for the most part, there's a lot of overmagnification for the fans, the media, even the players' standpoint. You tend to reflect on Opening Day and whether you've had a good day or a bad day, it can alter your thought process."

So he plans to take Friday in stride.

"It will be a lot of fun to watch.''
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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