Red Sox

McAdam: Pinch-hit move yet another strange one by Valentine

843965.jpg

McAdam: Pinch-hit move yet another strange one by Valentine

TORONTO - At a time of year when the games should be routine and otherwise unremarkable, just one more day crossed off a most forgettable Red Sox calendar, Sunday's 5-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays managed to somehow stand out.

The Sox and Jays were scoreless in the seventh when Pedro Ciriaco singled with two outs.

Shortstop Jose Iglesias, scheduled to hit next, took his place in the batter's box. With the count 1-and-2, Ciriaco broke for second, giving the Sox a runner in scoring position.

Then, much to just about everyone's surprise, Iglesias was called back from the batter's box and replaced by pinch-hitter Daniel Nava.

Nava then hit the first pitch back to pitcher Brandon Lyon, who threw Nava out and ended the inning.

"Just trying to get a run for Jon (Lester), obviously," explained Bobby Valentine when asked about the logic behind the move. "I told Daniel if he steals second, 'You got it.' Otherwise, I was all set to play defense. Nothing-nothing. Guy gets to second base, you want to take a shot at a base hit."

In May or June, sure. For a team fighting for a playoff spot, of course. But for a team that went into Sunday tied for fourth place, 14 games under .500?

And that doesn't begin to address the issue of Iglesias's confidence. If the Sox still view Iglesias as their shortstop of the future -- maybe even their shortstop of the near future - that seemed like a curious move.

Why damage Iglesias's confidence? More to the point, why not see how he handles such an opportunity?

"I was pinch-hit with the bases loaded and a 3-and-2 count on me," said Valentine. "It didn't ruin my confidence. I think he'll get over it. I talked to him. He said, 'whatever's best for the team.'"

Valentine continually cited the attempt to get a win for Lester, who has pitched better than his record would indicate. But remember, Valentine wasn't quite so solicitous of Lester's feelings when he left him in for 11 runs in four innings against this same Toronto lineup in July.

"It's tough," said Valentine of the balance that must be navigated between trying to win and trying to evaluate. "Jon's pitching such a good game. You get him a run there, he wins the ballgame. He's battling, too. It's not about one guy; it's about the whole group of guys.

"There's a good balance there. Guy's just pitched 100 pitches, trying to win a baseball game. There'll be plenty of time to evaluate. I don't think that's a make-or-break situation. He's got one hit so far. There will be a lot of opportunities to get some hits. It's not kindergarten here.

"You don't think it was the right decision? So what. I think it was the right thing to do to try to win a game for a guy (Lester) who's busting his butt out there."

For his part, Iglesias was diplomatic and deferential.

"The manager made a decision," he said. "He's trying to do the best for the team and I respect the decision. I was ready to hit. I put some good ABs together today. That's all I can do and whatever decision he made, I respect him."

Nava said he was told "to be ready" if Ciriaco reached scoring position.

"I think anyone who comes off the bench, you know you've got to be ready," he said. "I didn't know the exact details of when I could be going in, because you never know if you are. But for a guy who comes off the bench, it doesn't matter if it's a fresh count or in the middle of the at-bat -- you have to be ready."

Nava acknowledged he felt badly for Iglesias, pulled off the field in the middle of an at-bat ("Oh yeah, totally").

When the season is over, it's highly unlikely being lifted for a pinch-hitter mid at-bat will scar Iglesias for the rest of his career.

But when the season is over, would it have mattered if the Sox finish with 71 wins instead of 72? Or with 72 instead of 73?

Instead, it's likely to be remembered for what it was: a strange move made during a lousy year, one that didn't make much sense in the big picture.

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

mlb_rob_manfred_081414.jpg

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

cy_young_corey_kluber_chris_sale_111517.jpg

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE