Red Sox

Notes: Red Sox rotation still in flux

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Notes: Red Sox rotation still in flux

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Jon Lester is scheduled to start Tuesday in Toronto, followed by John Lackey on Wednesday. Beyond that, the Red Sox rotation is not known at this point.

Not yet, said manager Terry Francona. Give us until tomorrow. Were going to try to get a couple of things back in a little bit different order.

With the pitching shuffled around over the last few games for various reasons ailments, and the infamous 13-inning game among them Francona will likely take advantage of the off-day Thursday before the start of a three-game series in New York to reset his rotation. One of the factors he will likely consider is separating Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett, who have started back-to-back days, Sunday and Monday.

Jason Varitek has been catching for both right-handers. Giving the 39-year-old catcher a day off between their starts would be preferable.

Lackey was in the bullpen Sunday. With long relievers Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves unavailable because of their outings on Friday, Lackey would have been called upon in a worst-case scenario.

We had Lack out there just in case something really went wrong ball off the
shin, something like that, Francona said. Aceves said he was available. We
werent real comfortable with that. He said he was fine. So we appreciate that
but we didn't want to do that.

Aceves and Wakefield are available today.

Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon have been stabilizers in the bullpen this season.

Its nice to know that theres an end in sight, Francona said. Some games dont go exactly the way you want. But then you get to Bard and Pap and it doesnt guarantee that you're going to win but youve gotten where you need to and then you dont have two guys throwing out in the bullpen and trying to match up and worrying about that. I dont think Bards had a lot of clean innings. Hes come in with runners on base a lot. And hes so good at it. Thats been very helpful.

Matt Albers has also been a blessing. This is a kid who was competing for a spot. And hes been going multiple innings for us, facing lefties and righties."

Although Papelbon didnt have his best showing in spring training, Francona is hesitant to attribute that to the "red light" effect when players wait for the season to start, saving their best performances for meaningful games.

I hate to say that because I think thats a scary way for us to go into the season, Francona said. Hey, the light's going to come on. Sometimes that helps guys, though, for sure. They seem to add a little bit of velocity and a bit more crispness to their pitches but he has been throwing the ball very well. Location, his splits been there, hes throwing an occasional breaking ball but hes not scattering his fastball. Last year there was a lot of nights where hed have to kind of bring it back in. Hed throw three or four or five in a row up, arm side. More often than not hed get the save but hed have to fight for it. Hes been pretty good so far.

The split comes out of the same arm slot as his fastball and if the fastballs down then the splits down with it. Thats a good combination.

Jose Iglesias is not in the starting lineup for the series finale with the Twins. Its an adjustment for young players, especially high-profile prospects, to get used to not starting.

It sure is, Francona said. Theyre used to a routine and their routine is showing up, taking their ground balls, hitting wherever theyll hit in the order and playing the game. We talked to Iggy about that yesterday. Just that exact same thing.

In his 17-game hitting streak, the best active streak among major leaguers, Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .378 (28-for-74) with 14 runs scored, 10 doubles, eight RBI, and seven stolen bases. Francona said he has not seen Ellsbury change his approach at the plate, just be more successful with it.

Sometimes you dont see the ball, sometimes you miss pitches, sometimes you get pitched to better, Francona said. Confidence grows. His mechanics havent changed. Hes just doing it better.

Hes using the entire field, driving the ball to left field, turning on the ball in, hitting the ball up the middle. Hes hitting the ball to all three fields and with speed like that if you do that -- we usually talk about things evening out. Im not sure theyre supposed to even out when you can run that fast and you use the entire field. I think youre going to get more hits than you're supposed to.

Carl Crawford has an eight-game hitting streak, in which he is 12-for-31 (.387), raising his average to .211.

It looks like things are starting to slow down a little bit, Francona said. Everything was so rushed. And its still at times like that but the balls not in the mitt. Hes seeing it a little better, seeing it a little quicker out of the hand, reacting better. Im sure it looks like its slowing down for him. He has that big open stance and when he would get back to square I think it was taking him a little longer than he realized, so hed get that foot down and the ball was already coming across the plate.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press

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.