Red Sox

Red Sox notes: Valentine assesses poor pitching performances

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Red Sox notes: Valentine assesses poor pitching performances

BOSTON Red Sox starting pitching has been dreadful lately. In the last 11 games they have put together a combined 8.88 ERA, going 1-10, averaging just over 4 23 innings. In their last 13 games, Sox pitchers have allowed opponents to score first in 11.

Daisuke Matsuzaka lowered that with his performance on Saturday, lasting just 1 13 innings, giving up five earned runs. It was the shortest outing by a starting pitcher since Matsuzaka lasted just one inning against the As on July 2.

Felix Doubront lasted just four innings, giving up five earned runs on Friday. In his first full major league season, the left-hander hast thrown 134 23 innings, an increase of more than 50 percent over the 87 23 he threw last season.

And Franklin Morales, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 24 with left shoulder inflammation, is going to have his shoulder examined.

Leaving manager Bobby Valentine with no shortage of issues and questions:

Should Matsuzaka stay in the rotation?

Im not sure, Valentine said. Going to see. Have some meetings here with him, too. He was very disappointed yesterday. So was I.

"I was disappointed he didn't come out the second inning throwing the way he threw the first inning. Theres got to be a way of replicating."

Valentine said he does not think Matsuzakas struggles are related to the Tommy John surgery the right-hander underwent in June 2010.

Should Doubront be shut down or rested?

He feels really good, Valentine said. Says he feels healthy. Going to see what the bullpen session looks like on Monday.

Will Franklin Morales, who had some shoulder fatigue at the beginning of spring training, return?

Hes a little hesitant right now because he doesnt feel a hundred percent strengthwise, Valentine said. So hes on a real holding pattern.

At the beginning of spring training he didn't feel it but the training room felt there might have been a little weakness. I think right now he justtalking with him he just doesnt feel a hundred percent. He thinks he can pitch and he thinks he can throw and hes throwing long toss but this time of season if a guy has any qualms about his condition I out it on the backburner.

There really was never any red flags or deficiencies or a situation where he thought he had a situation.

The health is my first concern," Valentine said. If Felix is healthy, hell go back out there for sure, if theres no problem. And Daisuke we could replace with Alfredo Aceves, I would think, even if its onlyhe threw a hundred pitches over three or four days, which is a buildup, but he hasnt really pitched the consecutive innings.

The starting pitching has also been making it difficult on other aspects of the game. Allowing opponents to score first so frequently puts the offense in an early hole, from which it has had a difficult time climbing out.

Theyre elated of course, Valentine said. An offense plays best when theyre relaxed and they have a lead, and they are stressed when they have to come from behind. Right now, our offense without the power has a real problem coming back from behind because they get on the bases and theyre a little tentative and we have to move on the bases in order to score runs right now.

I think it begins with starting pitching, ends with relief pitching and you need the offense in the middle.

Without David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks, the offense has been hamstrung be a lack of power.

Its hard to value that or weigh that but we are lacking the real threat of that home run guy, Valentine said. Most teams have a couple of them. Were lacking right now. We have guys who will hit home runs before the end of the year.

This season Jacoby Ellsbury has hit in the first, second, and third spots on the lineup. Sunday, he is batting sixth for the first time since 2009, with Ryan Kalish leading off.

Valentine is hoping the change might spark Ellsbury, who is hitting .257 this season and just .139 (5-for-36) with six strikeouts in his last nine games. But its not just about his spot in the lineup. Its also about those around him.

Im not dropping him, Valentine said. Im trying to mix the grouping up a little to see if we can get more runs on the board. Plus I want to see Kalish play a little early in the lineup.

Ellsbury is working real hard. Talking to him about hes feeling yesterday. Hes feeling good. At any time he can get hot as a firecracker. Hopefully today hell start getting hot.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who left Fridays game because of back spasms, was not in the lineup again today. With Mondays scheduled off-day, Valentine thought it would be wise to try to get Saltalamacchia, who has not taken batting practice, three consecutive days off.

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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