Red Sox

Lester tapped as Red Sox Opening Day starter

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Lester tapped as Red Sox Opening Day starter

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The announcement had a distinct anticlimactic bent to it, but it nonetheless made official what had been suspected for some time -- Jon Lester, Terry Francona acknowledged Wednesday morning, is the team's choice to start the Red Sox' season opener in Arlington, Texas.

Francona, who had dodged the question since soon after camp opened, admitted that he had made up his mind on the assignment over the winter. He had contacted Lester in the offseason to inform him of his decision -- "I think I was in a deerstand when he texted me," said Lester -- but asked the left-hander to keep the news to himself for a while.

"I don't think that's any surprise," said Francona in revealing his choice to reporters. "He's known for quite a while. I just haven't had a chance to talk to everybody on the staff yet, so, after Lester, we'll just kind of go day-by-day."

"I think he deserved it. I think he's one of the elite pitchers in the game. It seems like Lester's been our most consistent pitcher."

Lester was happy with the news, but took it in stride.

"Obviously, it's a big honor," he said. "Growing up, that's kind of who you want to be. But like I've said in the past, Opening Day is nice, but playoffs are more important. It's something that I'm honored to be named that, but it's still a work in progress.''

The honor is the first for Lester. Josh Beckett started the last two season openers and Daisuke Matsuzaka was the choice in Tokyo when Beckett was left behind in Fort Myers with a back strain.

"I don't think this is any big revelation," said Francona of the decision. "I just think he's been pretty good."

Lester was the choice to open the 2008 and 2009 ALDS when Beckett had injury issues, but selecting him to open the regular season with Beckett available represents something of a passing of the torch.

"I don't want to put too much emphasis on this," said Francona of the honor, "because I'm actually just about as excited about who we have at two, three and four out there, too. But I think Lester deserves this. I think he kind of has that stature in the game now where other teams probably look at him as No. 1.

"It's a big honor, which I understand. But other than that, once we start the season, it kind of goes by the wayside."

Lester has won 50 games over the last three seasons, easily the most on the Red Sox staff and has topped the 200-inning plateau each time.

Beckett, who is coming off his worst season in the big leagues, had publicly backed Lester as the logical choice to get the ball. Others on the staff concurred.

"That doesn't surprise me," said Francona of the support. "I would expect nothing less."

"If any of the other four guys had been named Opening Daystarter, it wouldn't hurt my feelings," said Lester. "The talent and the experiencethat we have in this rotation -- flip a coin. Anybody is worthy andanybody would be sure to be ready to take the ball on Opening Day.''

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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