Red Sox

Mullen on the Minors: LHP Hernandez gets call to PawSox

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Mullen on the Minors: LHP Hernandez gets call to PawSox

Its highly unlikely any team will keep its Opening Day rotation intact throughout the season. But, consider the case of Triple-A Pawtucket. Pitching coach Rich Sauveur had a six-man Opening Day rotation of Alex Wilson, Russ Ohlendorf, Justin Germano, Aaron Cook, Doug Mathis, and Brandon Duckworth. Today, not one of them is a starting pitcher for Pawtucket. Wilson is working in the PawSox bullpen. Ohlendorf, Germano, and Cook are pitching in the major leagues. And Mathis and Duckworth recently left the organization to pitch in Japan.

Ohlendorf is 3-0 with a 5.16 ERA in eight games (four starts) for the Padres. Germano, currently with the Cubs, is a combined 0-1with a 1.04 ERA in two games for Chicago and Boston. Cook is 2-3 with a 3.50 ERA in six starts for the Sox. In five starts since coming off the disabled list on June 24, Cook has a 2.16 ERA.

Meanwhile, the PawSox are among the International League leaders in ERA, at 3.55, saves (32), WHIP (1.33), strikeouts (799), and holds (43).

The PawSox currently have a rotation that includes Tony Pena, Jr., Billy Buckner, Zach Stewart, and newcomers Nelson Figueroa and Chris Hernandez.

The left-handed Hernandez is the first member of the 2010 Sox draft class to be promoted to Triple-A, despite garnering perhaps fewer headlines than other members of that class such as right-hander Anthony Ranaudo, third baseman Kolbrin Vitek, the Sox first pick that year, and outfielder Bryce Brentz.

In 18 starts, spanning 103 23 innings, with Portland, Hernandez was 4-8 with a 3.13 ERA, 60 strikeouts and 36 walks, for a 5.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio, and 1.67 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

Chris has been about as consistent the last few years as anybody we have, said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. Really aggressive strike thrower with a really good ability to keep the ball off the barrel of the bat. So his consistency and overall performance merited getting an opportunity at Triple-A.

Hernandez was the Sox ninth pick in 2010, out the University of Miami, where he went 10-3 with a 2.64 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 19 games (18 starts). Last season, with High-A Salem, he was 10-7 with a 3.18 ERA in his first full professional season.

We did have a feel that he was pretty advanced, coming from a big program where hed had a lot of success, Crockett said. Then he came in last season and really impressed in spring training. So, certainly were not surprised with the amount of success hes had so far. I think hes done a really nice job maintaining that consistency, both at higher levels as hes progressed as well as through the length of the season.

Hernandez made his first start for Pawtucket Sunday, going six innings, giving up two runs on seven hits and two walks with a home run and four strikeouts. He took a no-decision as the PawSox scored a run in the ninth and six in the 12th for the win.

He doesnt throw hard, but he uses his cutter, really relies on his cutter a lot, Sauveur said. He kept the ball down and when he left it up he got hit. But he did a good job. I was happy.

He knows how to pitch, because he doesnt have the greatest stuff. He kind of reminds me of me. I didnt have good stuff but I knew how to pitch and I was able to do it for 18 years. Hes very good. I was very, very pleased with him.

Hernandez is not going to overwhelm anyone with his velocity. His fastball rarely touches 90. His command will be key, said one scout. But the left-hander can impress with his ability to pitch.

He doesnt throw the ball straight, said the scout. He cuts the ball, and sinks it a little bit. He cuts it almost as hard as his regular fastball so its a good complimentary pitch. But, its always going to be about command. Whether he has great command, the jurys still out. But, hes got pretty good command. The way he pitches, his stuff is very complimentary. He changes speeds.

His command is pretty good. He mixes it up pretty good. But when he gets into a jam, he doesnt really have a go-to pitch. Hes going to try to throw a cutter on your hands but if he misses a little bit in the big leagues, boom.

I think hes a rotation guy, or maybe a swing guy. If hes on a staff with a bunch of guys that throw real hard, hes just so different, it could help them. But I think hes a long man, swing guy, fifth starter.

For now, Hernandez is a starter, Crockett said. As with all minor league pitchers, where his big league future might be will depend on the needs of the big league club.

Hernandez is scheduled to make his next start Friday, in the finale of the Pawtuckets four-game series in Indianapolis.

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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