Red Sox

McAdam: Farrell should be the fix Sox organization needs

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McAdam: Farrell should be the fix Sox organization needs

Over the last few years, as the Red Sox went from an appearance in the ALCS to a first-round wipeout to three straight non-playoff seasons, it's been obvious that their man shortcomings have been the decline of their pitching staff and a series of ill-advised free agent investments.

And here's where John Farrell comes in.

The pitching part is obvious. Farrell served as the Red Sox' pitching coach from 2007-2010, a period in which the Sox compiled the third-best ERA in the American League.

Under Farrell's direction, both Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz enjoyed their best seasons. If the Sox are to be successful in 2013 and going forward, the pair must get turned around.

Though he's returning to the Red Sox as manager of the entire roster and not as pitching coach, Farrell's working knowledge and familiarity with the two can't do anything but help.

In his introductory press conference, Farrell almost casually noted that, even from the opposing dugout, he noticed some "obvious things" in Jon Lester's delivery and has, in the last couple of days, mentioned those to Lester.

"We all recognize how important pitching is, and particularly starting pitching," said Farrell. "You look at every team that's advanced to the post-season and it typically starts and ends with the strength of your starting rotation. That is a priority. You can't over-emphasize the importance of the starting rotation.

"And we do need some work in the rotation. In talking with Clay and Jon already, they're eager to get going, even though the post-season this year hasn't even ended. But I think we'll tap back into those previous experiences to get it right. But the capability is here."

The same goes for Daniel Bard. Moved from the bullpen to the rotation last spring with disastrous results, Bard completely melted down against, ironically, the Blue Jays and Farrell on June 1.

He subsequently was sent to the minors for a two-month stint where his unraveling continued, leaving his future with the Sox uncertain.

But Tuesday, Farrell, who has exchanged text messages and voice mails with Bard already, said Bard "not too long ago might have been the best eighth inning reliever in baseball."

"He's not injured," said Farrell, "and that gives you every reason to believe that he can regain that performance ability."

Bard broke into the big leagues in 2009 with Farrell as his pitching coach. It seems likely that, if anyone can right Bard, it could be Farrell.

Equally important to the task at hand is Farrell's background in player development. From 2001 through 2006 -- before he left to become the Red Sox' pitching coach -- Farrell was the Cleveland Indians' farm director.

At the time, many in the game believed that Farrell was on the front office career track, rather than a uniform or managerial path.

His experience there should prove valuable in Boston. When the Sox shipped Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 25, it was with the admission that the Sox had, in recent years, strayed from the formula that made them so successful from 2003-2008: relying mostly on homegrown talent.

While the 2007 World Series team featured a core of drafted-and-developed players -- Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester and Jonathan Papelbon, among others -- the Sox then went on a free agent spending spree that netted them Crawford, Mike Cameron, Bobby Jenks and John Lackey, with little return to show for their investment.

The Sox vowed then to be more "disciplined" with their spending, while limiting their forays into the free agent market.

Though the club saved nearly 260 million in salary obligations with the trade with the Dodgers, the Sox don't intend to plow that money back into free agents this winter.

Rather, the team is expected to introduce a number of top prospects into the lineup in the next two seasons led by infielder Xander Bogaerts, outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and pitcher Matt Barnes. Additionally, young players such as Ryan Kalish and shortstop Jose Iglesias, both of whom have already had brief exposure to the majors, are expected to compete for jobs in 2013.

Farrell, having overseen the Indians' system a decade ago, can bring some of that experience to his new position, helping him to integrate the next generation of Red Sox farmhands.

"There's going to be a transition that's individual to the given guy," said Farrell, "based on where he's at physically and fundamentally but mentally, can he handle this stage? Can he handle failure, possibly for the first time in his career? Making sure that that player feels comfortable, not trying to add more pressure to himself when this setting alone is going to add to that or compound things.

"I think there's an understanding that when a guy makes his way through the minor league system, transition and development continues at the big league level."

"The good thing is," said Mike Hazen, once the Red Sox director of player development and now the assistant GM, "that I think we have some talented (young) players who are going to be ready, in the next 12 to 24 months, to crack this roster. And we need to, in order to have a sustainable run and that next great Red Sox team."

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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