Red Sox

Notes: Aceves again proves worth out of pen

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Notes: Aceves again proves worth out of pen

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

BALTIMORE -- For the last few weeks, as the Red Sox starting rotation has faltered, Terry Francona has resisted inserting Alfreo Aceves into the rotation, reasoning that the swingman is more valuable pitching multiple times out of the bullpen each week rather than just one spot start every five games.

Tuesday night, Aceves helped prove Francona's point.

With starter Erik Bedard lifted after just 3 13 innings, Aceves was brought into the game in the fourth and took the Sox though the seventh, contributing 3 23 innings of one-run ball on three hits.

He threw 36 pitches -- 27 for strikes -- and worked tirelessly, getting the Sox from Bedard to Daniel Bard, their eighth-inning man.

"He's done it time and time again," said an appreciative Francona. "He's so valuable doing what he's doing."

Aceves doesn't rattle easily and his aggressive approach, as the outs piled up, gave the game the feel of a postseason contest.

"All this last month is like preparing ourselves for the playoffs," he said. "It's not like you turn a switch and say 'Let's go.' But tonight was the same idea, same concept I've had all year."

"We thought about leaving him in and finishing it out," said Francona, "but because he's so resilient, we'll probably have him available Wednesday. And chances are, we'll probably need him."

Aceves guessed that he would be available, too.

"If I wake up tomorrow," he said with a smile, "I'm good to go."

Jarrod Saltalamacchia thought he could start Tuesday night after taking a foul ball off the collarbone Monday night, but Terry Francona decided to play it safe and start Ryan Lavarnway.

"Saltalamacchia came out early and threw the ball OK," said Francona before the game. "But he's really sore. If we start him and he can't go, we've got Jason Varitek who is really hurting, a kid who hasn't been catching at all Luis Exposito and with Lavarnway as our only guy.

"If we start Ryan, he's good against left-hand pitching, and we can go to Salty later with a chance to loosen up. I just think it makes some sense."

The move certainly paid off, as Lavarnway hit two home runs in the Red Sox' 8-7 victory.

"I'm definitely available," said Saltalamacchia. "It's gotten better. I went and out and threw. It's stiff and sore. But I'm available. I'm able to play.

"I definitely want to be in there. But at the same time, I want to make sure I'm 100 percent. I don't want to go out there and hurt the team. I need to be 100 percent and I need to be able to perform. I feel like I can perform, but if it takes today to be 100 percent Wednesday, then that's what I'll do."

Francona said Varitek, who was hit on the right knee in the fifth inning Sunday, is still "really sore."

The Sox had Jed Lowrie hitting cleanup for the first time all season, sandwiched between two lefty hitters -- David Ortiz third and Adrian Gonzalez fifth.

"They've got a bundle of lefty guys down in their bullpen," said Francona of the Orioles, "and they're certainly willing to match up."

Ortiz hitting ahead of Gonzalez is something of a change for the Sox.

"Sometimes, I think David can use the protection more than Gonzie," said Francona.

Francona continued to avoid talking about who would start a play-in game Thursday in St. Petersburg, though it seems likely that assignment would go to John Lackey, who would be pitching on three days' rest.

"Some of that would obviously be determined how we get there," said Francona.

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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