Red Sox

Notes: Ortiz turning things around against lefties

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Notes: Ortiz turning things around against lefties

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

BALTIMORE -- David Ortiz is off to a far better start this season than either of his last two seasons. But somewhat lost in that better start is Ortiz's resurgence against left-handed pitching.

Granted, it's a relatively small sample size, but through the first 22 games, Ortiz was hitting a sizzling .360 -- 9-for-25 -- against lefties.

That's quite an upgrade for someone who hit a measly .222 against them last season. But Ortiz isn't terribly surprised by his start, noting that, over the course of his career, he's actually hit lefties relatively well (.259 lifetime).

"I'm just trying to be more patient,'' said Ortiz before taking batting practice Wednesday afternoon. "I watch my video and I saw that it wasn't like they were getting me out; I got myself out much of the time, chasing bad pitches.

"When they bring a lefty in or you're facing a lefty, it's all about not chasing bad pitches. I'm just trying to be more patient because I know I've been hitting lefties my whole life. But it gets to the point where you don't pay attention to it and the next thing you know, it's haunting you.''

Ortiz fell into a hole early against lefties last year, and, desperate to show that he belonged in the lineup against them, started trying to do too much. The harder he tried, the more he chased pitches out of the strike zone, playing into opponents hands.

"I wanted to show everyone,'' recalled Ortiz, "but they weren't even giving me stuff to hit. When pitchers see that you're not chasing those sliders in the dirt or the two-seamer in the dirt, they figure 'That's not working anymore; I've got to either throw strikes or walk him.'

"This year, I've been taking my walks. (Seven in 32 plate appearances against lefties, compared to eight in 53 plate appearances against righties.) I tried to wait for a pitch I can hit and not try to pull everything. I had been walking away from my game the last few years because I was trying to do too much against them.''

Before he returned to the Red Sox on a one-year option last fall, manager Terry Francona warned Ortiz that he might sit against some lefties if he didn't perform better. Ortiz accepted that, but wanted a concession from Francona -- if he hit better against them, he could stay in the lineup more often.

To date, Francona has been true to his word. With Ortiz off to a better start, Ortiz has been out of the starting lineup just twice in the first 22 games. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have faced nearly as many lefty starters (10) as righties (12).

"At one point (in the offseason),'' said Ortiz, "I said to myself: 'You've hit lefties before; what is it you're not doing that you used to?' I figured out that I was chasing their pitches and getting away from my game. I went out there trying to show the whole world that I can hit lefties, but they weren't giving me anything to hit.'

Josh Beckett seemed to have plenty on his mind when he stared down Luke Scott in the fourth inning. But hours later, he bristled when asked by reporters about the incident.

Scott flipped his bat after crushing a pitch from Beckett some 423 feet, over everything in right field. As he rounded the bases, Beckett followed him with his eyes and seemed to be yelling at the Baltimore outfielder.

"Not my deal,'' shrugged Beckett initially when asked about Scott's reaction.

Asked if he was upset with Scott's reaction, Beckett said: "Those things have a way of working themselves out.''

An angry Beckett could be seen demanding a new ball from the umpire after Scott's homer. He then had an animated conversation with home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth as he left the mound following the third out.

Asked what he said to Culbreth, Beckett snapped: "Is this TMZ? I thought we were talking about a baseball game. We want to know about bat flips and talking to umpires. Why don't we just stick to the game?''

Terry Francona, asked about the Beckett-Scott flareup, said he didn't notice much.

"I don't watch that,'' said Francona. "Our guys flip their bats some times, too.''

On another night, Kevin Youkilis might have been the hero. But Wednesday night, he was more like a footnote.

Youkilis homered to left with two on in the eighth off Koji Uehara, helping the Sox erase what had been a 4-0 Orioles lead.

"I was just looking for a fastball to drive,'' recounted Youkilis, "I got one at 2-and-0 and just missed it. Then I was fortunate enough to get one up in the zone that I could hit out there to left-center field. But in the end it didn't matter because we lost the game.''

The homer was Youkilis's fifth homer of the season, but only the second three-run homer the Sox have hit in 23 games.

"We just haven't clicked on all cylinders yet,'' said Youkilis. "This team has a lot of great hitters that aren't where they should be. That's the greatest thing we have going for us right now. We have hitters that are .300, .290 hitters that aren't hitting there. That means a lot of balls are going to fall in that haven't fallen in.''

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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