Red Sox

McAdam: Rotation uncertainty cause for concern

492788.jpg

McAdam: Rotation uncertainty cause for concern

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

TORONTO -- It's not a huge concern that the Red Sox have lost four of their last five, or that they now trail the first-place New York Yankees by their largest margin since July 2 -- 2 12 games.

It's not particularly troubling that they've been shut out four times in the last 22 games, for that matter. As the early part of the season taught us, things run in cycles over the course of a 162-game season.

But the fact that two of the Red Sox' starting pitchers are now unlikely to make their next starts because of physical issues? That could be plenty problematic.

Monday began with the news that Erik Bedard, who had just come off the DL with a knee injury when the Sox traded for him from Seattle on July 31, would be skipped in his next start. Terry Francona made it sound like the Sox were merely exercising caution.

Bedard, after all, has been pitching with a brace on his ailing left knee since coming to Boston. There was more soreness in his knee than usual in the last inning of his start Saturday, so the Sox thought it wise to plan to skip him Friday in St. Petersburg, his next scheduled turn.

No big deal, the Sox seemed to be suggesting.

Then, in the fourth inning, Josh Beckett had to leave Monday's game, later diagnosed with a sprained right ankle.

Three weeks before the end of the season, the projected Game 1 playoff starter has to leave the game? That qualifies as a big deal, without question.

Beckett will fly to Boston this morning and be examined by Dr. George Theodore, one of the area's foremost foot and ankle experts. Theodore assisted on Curt Schilling's ankle procedure in October 2004, so that alone should establish his bona fides in the matter of ace pitchers getting ready for the post-season.

The Sox had planned to give Beckett an extra day before his next start, meaning he would finish the road trip Sunday against the Rays.

Now, that start is up in the air, and with it, the team's post-season chances.

It's hard not to compare this to the end of the 2008 season, when, on the final weekend of the season, Beckett suffered an oblique pull. He made several starts before the Red Sox were eliminated in Game 7 of the ALCS, but was clearly not 100 percent.

This time, there's more time to rebound, of course. Game 1 of the ALDS is scheduled for Sept. 30, three weeks from this Friday. If Beckett is merely battling a sprained ankle -- and not damage to any ligaments in the area -- he should have plenty of time to recover.

But what's unsettling as September kicks off is the thinning of the Red Sox' rotation. Remember, at the beginning of the season, the Sox were thought to have a big advantage over the Yankees with the quality and depth of their rotation's front end.

With Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, the Sox seemed to have the best Big Three in the American League, and that trio alone would make them a formidable post-season opponent.

Except now, with the days flying off the calendar and potential first-round opponents being measured, the Sox don't have their Big Three. They have Jon Lester. And for now, that's it.

Buchholz hasn't pitched since June and has yet to be cleared to get back on the mound. At best, the Sox hope he can give them some help in the bullpen, and even then, perhaps not until the ALCS, if the Sox survive the first round.

With Buchholz's return at the deadline very much in question, Bedard was supposed to provide them with another middle-of-the-rotation starter and indeed, he's done that. But he too is far from a certainty, given the ongoing issues with his left knee.

Even without a dominant option beyond Beckett and Lester, the Sox were going to be a handful in October. Together, they could make three of the five starts in the ALDS, and perhaps four of the seven games in the LCS.

Now, who knows?

Perhaps Beckett will confirm Tuesday that his ailment is nothing more serious than a sprain and will be skipped Sunday, enabling him to get the rest the Sox had been plotting for him anyway.

Maybe, in the end, this will be seen as a blessing, allowing him to hit the refresh button just when starting pitchers are dragging toward the finish line.

But the uncertainty surrounding the rotation is, if nothing else, disconcerting. What was supposed to be a team strength has been suddenly transformed into a question mark.

There's time for the Beckett and Bedard to get healthy. But until they prove they are, there's plenty of time to worry, too.

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

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