Red Sox

Okajima not happy to be in Pawtucket

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Okajima not happy to be in Pawtucket

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

PAWTUCKET, R.I. Starting the season in Triple-A was not what left-hander Hideki Okajima had in mind when he re-signed as a free agent with the Red Sox in January. Had he known, would he have signed back with the Sox?

Probably not, he said Thursday night through an interpreter before the Pawtucket Red Sox' Opening Night game against the Rochester Red Wings at McCoy Stadium.

He pitched a scoreless inning in the PawSox' 2-1 win, recording a strikeout in what was the first minor-league appearance of his career. He had spent all of his first four seasons in North America in the major leagues with the Red Sox -- making the All-Star team as a rookie in 2007 -- and he admitted the demotion affects his pride.

But after going 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA last season, allowing righties to hit .340 and lefties .284, the move was not completely unexpected to most observers. Okajima still has minor-league options, so the team could send him down without the risk of losing him via waivers.

Its all up to the front office and manager Terry Francona, Okajima said. So its nothing that I can do. I dont take it as an insult.

He had offers from other teams, he said, and in hindsight maybe he would still be in the big leagues if he had taken one of those.

But at the end of the day my family wanted to be in Boston, he said. So thats why I made this decision and I accept that.

He compared the move to when he was traded just before the start of the 2006 season in Japan, which caught him by surprise.

Thats how I felt, he said. I wish they would have told me earlier this was going to happen because that would have allowed me to be prepared for things, prepare for the season, just get myself mentally prepared.

He said the Sox did not give him specific instructions for things to work on in Pawtucket.

Pretty much what he was told was that although he improved toward the end of last season and pitched well during the spring, they still wanted him to start the season in Triple-A and regain his consistency and just get a few more outings before he gets the call up, said the interpreter. So thats pretty much what hes going to be working on.

Dennys Reyes, the only left-hander in the Sox pen, has struggled greatly since the start of the season. In four games, he has recorded just 1 23 innings pitched, with a 16.20 ERA, giving up two hits, two walks, with one strikeout. Overall, he has thrown 39 pitches, only 17 for strikes. In two of his outings, he has not recorded an out.

In Wednesdays game against the Indians, he faced three batters, hitting the first two and walking the next before exiting. He threw 12 pitches, just one for a strike. His season-high for hit batters is four, in 2004 with Kansas City in 108 innings.

Okajima said he has paid no attention to dismal the start of the big-league teams season, or to Reyes performance.

No, I havent been watching the big-league games right now, he said. I dont want too much TV.

He said hes not surprised at the teams start.

Not really, he said. I think it shows the reality of where the team stands at this point. The same reality that Im starting down here, theyre struggling up there.

The team hasnt told him when or if he might be recalled, he said.

No, I just have to do what I have to do down here and well see what happens, he said.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

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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