Red Sox

Ortiz not pressing over season's first month

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Ortiz not pressing over season's first month

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Surrounded by new superstar teammates and playing for a team with enormous expectations, David Ortiz foresees a happy ending for the 2011 Red Sox.

What's less certain is how the season begins, especially for him.

Ortiz hit just .143 in April last year and was frequently miffed that manager Terry Francona chose to sit him at times in the first month, often against tough left-handed pitchers.

"It was a very difficult month,'' acknowledged Francona. "But we fought our way through and we came out feeling better, which I think was important.''

In one memorable exchange, Ortiz reacted with anger when he was asked about his "slow start'' exactly two games into the season. He uncharacteristically snapped at reporters and withdrew.

Ortiz believes the best way to get off to a better start is to stop obsessing about it, as he did too often the last two years.

"I think all I need to do is not think about it,'' he said. "Going into the season, sometimes you hear everybody talking about your start and you put more pressure than normal on the beginning of the season.

"A good start guarantees you a good end and I understand why people worried about me the way the season started because everybody is kind of used to seeing you do your thing. But I'm not planning to put pressure on myself at the start. I plan on playing more in the preseason than I normally do.

"My emphasis is not focusing on what people have to say about the beginning of the season. My focus is getting prepared and going to play the game, the way it's supposed to be.''

The last two seasons, Ortiz found himself pressing when he stumbled early. Determined to break out of his April slumps, he began beating himself up, trying to shake his hitting woes.

Not now.

"I'm not going to let that get into my head like last year,'' said Ortiz. "I know that just like I can go 0-for-20, I can go 15-for-20 just as quickly. It's just a game. I think last year what happened was, I snapped, when the second game, people were having their doubts.''

If Ortiz struggles -- particuarly against lefties -- Francona may have more options in 2011. Last year, a hobbled Mike Lowell was his best choice to play when Ortiz nosedived. This year, Francona can choose from among Mike Cameron and Jed Lowrie as DH fill-ins.

It may also help that Ortiz will be part of a deeper lineup, featuring newcomers Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. That should ensure more baserunners and, in turn, better protection in the lineup for Ortiz himself.

"I think right now we have more thunder than we've had the past few years,'' said Ortiz. "It will be crazy for the opposing pitchers to focus on a lineup like that. You have a lot of good hitters, one behind another. I don't think I'm going to be the guy people are going to have worry about now.''

Still unclear is Ortiz's future after 2011. He publicly campaigned for the Red Sox to give him a multiyear extension after he topped the 30-homer, 100-RBI plateaus, but in the end, had to be satisfied with the team exercising a one-year, 12.5 million option.

"That's something I can't really control,'' said Ortiz of the team's contractual offer. "I want to stick around, but that's what they had on the table for me at the time. We just move on. I'm just going to focus on playing baseball right now and whatever happens later on, happens. I haven't thought about what might happen if he is off to a good start and deserving of a longer commitment yet. I'm glad to be here and I'm excited what's coming up.''

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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