Red Sox

Ross excited to reunite with Red Sox

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Ross excited to reunite with Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This is not the first time that David Ross has been in a Red Sox uniform. That happened in 2008, when Ross was a late-season acquisition for a team searching for catching depth.

His time with the Sox was short. But it was just enough to whet his appetite. Ross was obtained from the Reds in mid-August and experienced a bit of culture shock.

"I was just trying to sit back and take it all in," he recalled Tuesday morning. "You come from a market like Cincinnati to a market like Boston and all the fans. I was just trying to take it all in and see how a big market works. It was the first time I had been in a market like Boston and the fan following was just awesome to me. It was definitely different.

"I was kind of the third catcher (behind Jason Varitek and Kevin Cash). I think I was there for defensive reasons if they pinch-hit. They put me on the roster in the playoffs, which was kind of cool and fun. I got a little bit of taste of Boston. That's probably the reason why I'm back, because of how much fun it was to see those guys in 2008, how much fun they had and how close they were, how people treated one another, the front office included, and how much respect they had for the players in their roles. That's probably one of the reasons I'm back."

Ross was the team's first signing off the off-season and came as something of a surprise, given the presence of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway, along with the team's developing interest in Mike Napoli.

But the Sox valued Ross's defensive skills, his leadership and his ability to work with a pitching staff and offered him a two-year, 6.2 million deal.

"The way they treated me was No. 1," Ross said. "You could tell I was a priority. They came early on, saying all the right things and really committed to me as the whole deal. The way they treated me was above and beyond. And knowing the talent level here (helped). As a catcher, it's not fun to catch a bad staff. It makes the games long and a lot of hard work. Knowing the talent level here they have on the staff, that was kind of a bonus.

"It was just nice to see how they pursued me, how aggressive they were early on. You want to feel wanted by the organization that brings you in. That was one of the key things for me. It was nerve-wracking when there are all these teams calling and you're trying to make the right decision for you and your family. But it was a lot of fun to be wanted, I know that."

At the time, the Sox were unsure of their catching situation. They had yet to sign Napoli -- whom they initially envisioned catching some, before a hip condition changed his contract and altered the Red Sox' plans for him as solely a first baseman -- and they already had Saltalamacchia and Lavarnway.

"I think they were still undecided on what they were going to do when they were talking to me,'' Ross said. "They asked, 'Do you care who you play alongside or back up or whatever your role is?' I said I was going to try to be the best teammate I can and work hard on the days I play. I'm going to do the best I can to win and support whoever my teammate is. That's kind of how I was raised. I feel like that's the right thing to do.

"At this point in my career, I'm not trying to put up any Hall of Fame numbers or anything. I just want to win. I feel like this place gave me the best chance."

More recently, both manager John Farrell and GM Ben Cherington have said Saltalamacchia will be the first-string catcher with Ross as the backup and Lavarnway probably ticketed for a return to Triple A.

In Atlanta, Ross was credited with helping a number of top young pitchers (Craig Kimbrel, Kris Medlen, Jonny Venters, Julio Teheran) and as the Red Sox look to integrate number of younger pitchers themselves, it's believed that Ross's work in that area will be beneficial.

"Sometimes you have to think outside the box,'' Ross said. "That's where experience comes in. Veteran catchers like myself that have been around a little bit can still play because the knowledge you have upstairs helps out a little bit at crucial times. I hope to bring any experience and knowledge I have to this team and any questions those guys ask."

Ross is looking forward to working with Saltalamacchia and, from a distance, is impressed by the progress his teammate has made.

"When you have a catcher hitting 20-plus homers a year," he said, "that's impressive. This game's hard in general but catching is really, really tough. When you can be an everyday catcher and put up some good offensive numbers, especially power numbers back there (that's great).

"It will be a blast. The guy hit 25 jacks last year. It's going to be a lot of fun. He's a good guy, hard worker. It's going to be a lot of fun just talking it out. He's got experience. I've been privileged enough to be around some good catchers. He's one of those. I'm excited to work with him and be his teammate and help him with whatever he needs done."

And though Saltamacchia is younger and doesn't have as much big league experience, he does have a background with these Red Sox pitchers. That's a resource Ross can utilize.

"He'll have a good idea about what a guy can do and what he can't do," Ross said, "what this guy should be working on or not. We'll talk about that after we get going. But we've been talking about a lot of everything, so it's going to be fun."

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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