Red Sox

Optioning Okajima, Aceves 'pretty tough'

191542.jpg

Optioning Okajima, Aceves 'pretty tough'

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- At the beginning of spring training, the Red Sox figured something -- injuries, poor performance -- would help make their bullpen decisions easier.

Then, a funny thing happened: nearly all the candidates pitched pretty well, making for some tough, last-minute decisions, made final Monday morning, a day before the club breaks camp in Florida.

With two spots open in the bullpen, the Red Sox elected to keep lefty Dennys Reyes and righthander Matt Albers, while optioning Aldredo Aceves and four-year veteran lefty Hideki Okajima.

Reyes and Albers were each out of options, which contributed to the decision-making process.

"It was actually pretty tough,'' said Terry Francona. "We came into camp with some extra (arms) and nobody really separated themselves. In the back of our minds, we kept thinking, 'If there's not a big separation, we want to keep the quantity.' "

"In the end,'' GM Theo Epstein told reporters in Fort Myers, "it became hard to distinguish between the final few candidates. The overriding factor was the preservation of pitching depth. (Matt) Albers was out of options. We certainly would have lost him. With the way he threw and the interest in him, he wouldnt have gotten through waivers. Dennys (Reyes) also, we couldnt have kept had he not made the club.''

"But again, its a numbers game. With so many good pitchers in camp throwing so well, this was an unfortunate result for Alfredo, but we told him well see him again, and hes going to play a big part in this club. We really believe that.

Aceves will begin the season in the Pawtucket starting rotation, offering some organizational depth should something happen to the Boston rotation.

"Alfredo Aceves,'' said Epstein, "we still see as a big part of the big league team. he just happens to be starting the year getting stretched out in the Triple-A rotation. Wed be comfortable with him making starts for the big league club. Wed be comfortable with him in a long-guy role. Wed be comfortable with him for a shorter relief role. We know hes going to help this team. It was a tough day having to send him down because he did just about everything you can do to make the club."

Okajima, who has pitched the last four seasons in Boston, will start the season in the Pawtucket bullpen.

"Last year was kind of a struggle,'' said Francona of Okajima. "At the end of the year he did pretty well. This spring, for the most part, he was pretty good. But Reyes has more action on the ball and we just want Okie to go try to get that consistency back. He was pretty good about it.''

Reyes, who had his contract purchased by the Red Sox Saturday, will be the sole lefty in the bullpen to start the season.

"Dennys is our only lefty,'' said Francona. "We're certainly not going to (lift Daniel) Bard and those guys in favor of a lefty. But earlier in a game, if a (starting) pitcher comes out early, (we could use him) to get out a big lefty.''

Albers, meanwhile, will essentially fill the role occupied by Scott Atchison last year -- used in the middle innings, sometimes for more than three outs.

"I think we're hoping that Albers can give us one-plus, with that two-seamer,'' said Francona. "Maybe he can go through a bunch of righties and an occasional lefty and get some ground balls. Maybe when we're down a couple, he could give us a couple of good innings.''

The composition of the bullpen, at least insofar as the Opening Day roster is concerned, represents an overhaul from last year's pen. Only three pitchers on the 2011 roster -- Bard, Jonathan Papelbon and Tim Wakefield -- were on the team's roster at the end of last year.

Reyes, Albers, Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler are all new to the Sox.

"I think when the season was over (last year),'' said Francona, "I think we knew we were going to have turnover. It was well-documented that Theo wanted to go get some depth and he did."

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

mlb_rob_manfred_081414.jpg

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

cy_young_corey_kluber_chris_sale_111517.jpg

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE