Red Sox

Lee spurns Yankees, signs with Phillies

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Lee spurns Yankees, signs with Phillies

By Jim Salisbury
CSN Philly

In yet another example of how far the Phillies have come as a franchiseand a destination spot for premier players, the team agreed on afive-year contract with free-agent left-hander Cliff Lee late Mondaynight, a person with knowledge of the deal said.

Yes, Cliff Leeis coming back to the team that traded him away a year ago, the teamfor which he dazzled in the 2009 postseason, the team that he neverwanted to leave.

Lee, 32, spurned huge offers from the TexasRangers and New York Yankees to rejoin the Phillies. His five-year dealis worth 120 million and includes an option for a sixth year.

The Yankees offer was for seven years and 148 million.

Leesreturn to the Phils creates the most powerful starting rotation in themajors. In addition to Lee, the Phillies have Roy Halladay, the 2010National League Cy Young winner, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.

Thesigning is also further proof as if any more was needed that thePhillies are one of the games elite franchises, a Goliath, as agentScott Boras called them at the winter meetings last week.

In alittle over a year, the Phils have traded for Lee, traded for Halladay,traded for Oswalt, and signed Lee. Halladay, by the way, had a no-tradeclause in Toronto and hand-picked the Phillies as the team for which hewanted to pitch.

Clearly, these arent Curt Schillings andScott Rolens Phillies anymore. The Phils, with their new winningtradition four straight National League East titles their string ofsellout crowds, and their willingness to pay top dollar for talent, area certifiable destination team for major-league ballplayers.

In a little more than a decade, the teams payroll has gone from 26 million to more than 160 million for the coming season.

WithLee coming back, at an average annual salary of 24 million, thePhillies will likely try to clear some salary by attempting to tradepitcher Joe Blanton or outfielder Raul Ibanez. Blanton is owed 17million through 2012. Ibanez is signed for 2011 at 11.5 million.

Fromthe beginning of this offseason, the Phillies had monitored Lees freeagency and hoped to get into the bidding provided his cost was withintheir price range. The Phils were thought to be out of the running whenthe Yankees pushed their offer upward.

But Lee never eliminatedthe Phillies. He had joined the Phillies in a trade from Cleveland inJuly 2009 and loved his brief time in Philadelphia. He let that beknown to Phillies management this winter. He expressed a strong desireto return and ownership made a payroll exception to sign him. The Philsalso had to break team policy and go five years on his contract. Inrecent years, the team had been reluctant to go more than three yearson a pitcher.

Lee, the 2008 American League Cy Young winner,went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA for the Phils in the 2009 postseason. The teamdealt him to Seattle in December 2009 as it acquired Halladay fromToronto.

Last summer, the Phils tacitly admitted that tradingLee away was a mistake as it tried to get him back in July. Seattlewould not part with Lee unless the Phils included top prospect DomonicBrown in the deal. The Phillies refused and acquired Oswalt instead.

Fivemonths later, the Phils have signed Lee off the free-agent market. Theyhave righted their mistake and engineered what on paper looks to be oneof the greatest starting pitching rotations in the history of the game.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at jsalisbury@comcastsportsnet.com.

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

BOSTON — As soon as the American League Championship Series ends, the Red Sox could make a move for their manager.

Industry sources continue to expect Astros bench coach Alex Cora will be the Sox’ pick. No offer had been officially made as of midday Wednesday, one source close to the situation said. But the belief is such an offer waits out of respect to the Astros-Yankees ALCS that can end no later than Saturday if the series goes a full seven games. 

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“Not a doubt it is him,” the source said.

Sunday and Monday would both be off days ahead of the Tuesday night start of the World Series. That leads to the potential for at least a Red Sox announcement of Cora, if not a press conference, before the Fall Classic begins. (If the Astros advance to the World Series, it may be harder to have Cora in Boston for any length of time.)

All those who know Cora praise his ability to connect with players. The former Red Sox infielder is good friends with Dustin Pedroia. Cora’s previous knowledge of the Boston market works in his favor, as well, as does his mettle handling the media. Some question his readiness as a first-time manager, considering he would be taking over a team with great win-now expectations and complicated clubhouse dynamics.

Nothing takes the place of experience and there is such a thing as being too close to players. Ultimately, if the Sox do land Cora, 41, they would be adding the hottest up-and-coming managerial prospect who’s available on the market. The everybody-wants-him reputation could give Cora added cachet with players and certainly becomes a public-relations win for those fans following the search.

The Sox interviewed Ron Gardenhire on Wednesday. Gardenhire was the third candidate the Sox talked to and could well be the last. Cora met with the Sox on Sunday, followed by Brad Ausmus on Monday.
 

NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

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NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez sensed he was ready to bust out of his slump and give the Chicago Cubs the lift they needed.

As breakthroughs go, this was a big one. Just in time to keep the season going for the defending champs.

Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

"We have to be much more offensive," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's got to start happening tomorrow. We're going to do this. Going to pull this off, we have to become more offensive tomorrow."

Baez finally got going with a pair of solo drives .

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to help the Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

"They're the world champs, and you know they're going to fight to the end," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "So today, they did. We got beat today."

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. He had been watching videos and felt his timing was starting to come back in recent trips to the plate.

"I just need to take a step back and see what's going on," he said.

Contreras added a long homer against Alex Wood.

Davis entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff homer to Turner, who went 2 for 2 and drew two walks.

Maddon became incensed that a swinging strike three against Curtis Granderson was ruled a foul after the umpires discussed the play. Maddon got tossed, and Granderson struck out swinging at the next pitch.

And after walking Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second, Davis struck out Chase Utley , who is hitless in his last 24 postseason at-bats.

All seven of Chicago's runs in this series have come on homers. And long drives in the second by Contreras and Baez made it 2-0.

"Great to have this win, because if not we were going home tomorrow," Baez said. "But I feel like we're still not on track as a team. But I think if we get back on track, everybody as a team, we're going to be the best again."

Contreras' 491-foot homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez sent a towering drive out to left.

Bellinger cut it to 2-1 with his drive to right in the third. But Baez got the lead back up to two with a shot to the left-field bleachers in the fifth, the raucous crowd chanting "Javy! Javy!" for the flashy young star who was co-MVP of the NLCS last year.

No Cubs player had hit two in a playoff game since Alex Gonzalez went deep twice in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS against Miami.

Arrieta exited with runners on first and second in the seventh after walking Chris Taylor on a 3-2 pitch. He tipped his hat as fans gave him a standing ovation, a fitting show of appreciation for a pitcher with an expiring contract.

"Hopefully, it's not a goodbye, it's a thank you, obviously," Arrieta said. "I still intend to have another start in this ballpark. If that's where it ends, I did my best and I left it all out there."

Arrieta turns 32 in March and figures to land a huge deal in free agency. The trade that brought him from Baltimore helped fuel Chicago's rise, with the right-hander capturing the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and contributing to last year's drought-busting championship run.

Limited by a right hamstring injury in the final month of the season, he threw 111 pitches. Brian Duensing retired Bellinger on a fly to end the seventh.

Turner made it a one-run game with his homer off the left-field videoboard against Davis in the eighth.

A career-high 16-game winner, Wood gave up three runs and four hits in 42/3 innings.

"The only frustrating thing is we fell a run short," Turner said. "We played a great game, they played a great game. They just hit one more ball over the fence than we did."

FINISHING UP

Maddon said Davis would not be available on Thursday.

"So other guys got to do it," Maddon said. "We have to be much more offensive. It's got to start happening tomorrow. We're going to do this. Going to pull this off, we have to become more offensive tomorrow."

QUOTABLE

Chicago's Kyle Schwarber on all the Cubs' runs coming on homers in the series: "That's fine. A run's a run, anyway you can get them in. Obviously, we want to manufacture some runs, but we won a ballgame 3-2 hitting homers; I'll take that, too."

UP NEXT

Dodgers: The Dodgers turn to Kershaw to try to wrap up the series. The three-time NL Cy Young winner went five innings in Game 1, allowing two runs, and has a 4.76 ERA in two postseason starts this year.

Cubs: Quintana pitched five innings of two-hit ball in Game 1, one day after his wife, Michel, was taken off the team plane in Albuquerque with a medical ailment.

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