Red Sox

McAdam: The road to Bedard was winding

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McAdam: The road to Bedard was winding

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
CHICAGO -- It was, in the end, all about pitching; starting pitching in particular.

While the Red Sox a week ago thought they were in position to land Carlos Beltran in a deal and later dabbled on some relievers, the Sox spent almost all of their focus in the week leading up to Sunday's deadline in the market for starters.

"We were in on basically every available starter," said general manager Theo Epstein in a conference call with reporters. "We think we had a clear need for a staring pitcher and we would not have been satisfied if we let the deadline past without getting one."

On Saturday night, in fact, the team was prepared to make two separate deals for starters.

They had an agreement in place to send catching prospect Tim Federowicz and another prospect to Los Angeles for pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.

Some minor haggling remained on a third prospect, with the Red Sox privately resigned to including that player if it meant the deal would get done.

The whole trade got scuttled, however, when the Dodgers approached Kuroda to see if he would willingly waive his no-trade clause and Kuroda refused.

That sent the Red Sox in the direction of Oakland's Rich Harden, and hours later they had a deal in place for him, too -- Lars Anderson and a choice of one of three players to be named later.

Two of the three players to be named later were considered top second tier prospects.

Then the Red Sox got Harden's medical reports and were scared off by what they saw. Attempting to get some protection from giving up a good prospect as one of the players to be named, the Sox asked the A's for a reworked deal based on Harden's availability the remainder of the season.

If Harden made a certain number of regular season starts over the final two months and was on the postseason roster, the A's would get their choice from the original list. If he failed to meet that standard, the list would be reworked for lesser players.

When the A's balked, the Red Sox pulled out of the deal.

That sent them back to the Seattle Mariners. It had been the Red Sox' plan to get another pitcher before going back to talk about Bedard -- both to provide strength in numbers and also give them some leverage in talks with the Mariners, whom had asked for two top prospects earlier in the week.

Having scouted him Friday night at Safeco Field in his return from a knee injury that sidelined him for a month, the Sox weren't concerned about his poor outing.

Nor were they of the belief that Bedard had sabotaged his trade value by pitching poorly, thus ensuring he would remain in Seattle for the remainder of the season.

The weekend before, when the Mariners were at Fenway, the Sox had some of their talent evaluators watch him pitch a simulated game. When Bedard noticed the Red Sox scouting him, he picked up his intensity and his stuff was immediately improved.

Any question about his willingness to pitch in Boston had been answered.

Then came the hard part. The Mariners were intent on getting two athletic outfielders as part of their return and the Sox didn't want to provide more than one from within.

Instead, using the talks on Kuroda as a base for restarting discussions with the Dodgers, the Sox agreed to send three prospects to Los Angeles -- Federowicz and pitchers Stephen Fife and Juan Rodriguez -- for minor-league outfielder Trayvon Robinson. They then packaged Robinsion with their own outfielder, Chih-Hsien Chiang, to get Bedard.

"It wasn't clear that we were going to get anything done until the last minute again," said Epstein. "We're really glad to not get just any starting pitcher, but to get a pitcher capable of shutting down any lineup."

There are two main concerns about Bedard - one is his health; the other is his suitability for a market such as Boston.

In regard to protecting his health, the Sox may be able to buy him some additional bounce-back time by staying with a six-man rotation for the next few weeks.

They don't intend -- or expect -- to see his best stuff right away. The goal is to have him close to 100 percent on Sept, 1, not Aug. 1.

"The first step," said Epstein, "is to get to know him better. We'll all sit down and listen to what makes him tick. He knows his routine, and his between-start preparation better and how his arm responds better than anybody else does.

"So we'll sit down and listen and do what we can to support him and put him in a position for him to be as healthy as he can be and as effective as he can be."

As for Bedard fitting into Boston, the commitment is a short one. In an interview with the Boston Herald last week, Jim Duquette, who was general manager of the Orioles when Bedard was in Baltimore, openly questioned whether Bedard had the makeup -- or the willingness -- to pitch in a big-market setting.

"We're very comfortable with adding Erik to the ballclub," said Epstein. "I think he's a really good fit for this club. I think he's going to get along with his teammates. He's very competitive when he's on the mound. Maybe he lets his arm do his talking for him, which is fine with us. I think based on what we know about him, we think he's going to fit in well with his teammates and enjoy being a Red Sox in the middle of a pennant race.

"There's a lot of labels in baseball. Obviously, every club does its research and you do background information on players. But I've also found in this game that there can be labels that aren't always accurate. Until you're in the clubhouse with a player, you don't really know and you can't always project a player from one situation into another."

And in the end, given the circuitous nature of the talks and what the Sox went through to get him, they don't so much care whether Bedard talks a good game as long as throws a few.

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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