Red Sox

Notes: Varitek looks like Sox' primary catcher


Notes: Varitek looks like Sox' primary catcher

By SeanMcAdam

BALTIMORE -- No official announcement has been forthcoming, and it's likely none is on its way. But it's hard not to come away with the feeling that, for the time being at least, Jason Varitek is the Red Sox primary starting catcher.

Varitek was behind the plate Tuesday night as the Sox opened a series here with the Orioles.

The last two times through the rotation, Varitek has caught each start by Jason Varitek, Dasuke Matsuzaka and Monday's starter, Clay Buccholz.

It seems that Terry Francona will stick with that rotation, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia pairing with Jon Lester and John Lackey.

"Back when the season started,'' said Francona, "you guys asked me, 'How much is Tek going to catch?' I said he would catch more than the average backup catcher and that some it would be based on production and how guys are doing. He's been catching so well. I just think it made some sense.

"We're playing pretty well with both of them (8-1 in the last 9 games heading into Monday). We had a hole to dig ourselves out of and I think sometimes we're just trying to play guys to help us win.''

Varitek has just three hits all season in 30 at-bats (.100), but the presence of lefty Zack Britton played a role in Francona's decision too, since he would prefer to have the switch-hitting Varitek hit righthanded when possible.

But offense aside, it's hard not to look at the two catchers' won-loss record. While the Sox are 3-9 with Saltalamacchia behind the plate, they are 8-3 with Varitek after Tuesday's loss.

"He's pretty good back there,'' said Francona. "And again, that's no knock in Salty. But that's Tek's strength and I think sometimes it's important to go ahead and play him.''

Francona indicated that Varitek would likely catch Wednesday night, too, when Beckett is scheduled to start.

A couple of streaks came to an abrupt end for the Red Sox pitching staff Tuesday night:

-- The team's 20-inning scoreless streak, dating back to the eighth inning of Friday's win in Anaheim, came to an end when the Orioles pushed a run across in the bottom of the second inning.

-- With that run, the Orioles also brought an end to a scoreless streak pieced together by Red Sox starters. That stretch stood at 23 straight scoreless innings -- one from Beckett, six from Lester, and eight each from Matsuzaka and Lackey -- before Buchholz pitched a scoreless first Tuesday, upping the total to 24.

-- Tuesday also marked the first time since April 15 that a Red Sox starter had allowed more than two earned runs in a start. Back on April 15, the starter was also Buchholz.

Carl Crawford, who had multihit efforts in each of his last two games, was held hitless, going 0-for-4 . . . Adrian Gonzalez stroked his seventh double of the season to open the eighth. He leads the Red Sox in that department . . . Jed Lowrie, who had been the Sox' hottest hitter, was 0-for-4, marking just the third time this season that he'd been in the starting lineup and failed to record a base hit . . . David Ortiz was 1-for-2 with a walk off Britton, making him 9-for-25 (.360) against lefthanded pitching this season.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement


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


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

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.