Red Sox

Youkilis out of lineup after being hit in rib cage

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Youkilis out of lineup after being hit in rib cage

MIAMI -- Kevin Youkilis is out of the lineup Wednesday as the Red Sox wrap up their three-game series against the Marlins. Youkilis was hit in the rib cage in the eighth inning and came out of the game soon after as the Red Sox made some defensive substitutions.

Manager Bobby Valentine said the Sox' infielder was limited after being hit.

"He's pretty tied up,'' said Valentine. "He's pretty rotationally restricted.''

The Miami Marlins team physicians were planning on examining Youkilis before gametime, with X-rays possible.

"It was solid whack,'' said Valentine of being struck.

Soreness aside, Youkilis has been struggling mightily at the plate over the last 10 days. Since the start of the team's last homestand, Youkilis is just 3-for-26 (.115) over his previous eight games, dropping his average for the season down to .219.

Further complicating matters for Youkilis is his name being mentioned prominently in trade talk. Valentine spoke with Youkilis Tuesday about handling the distractions.

"Every season, for at least three months of the season, trade rumors swirl,'' said Valentine. "If you happen to be one of the guys being talked about, it's no fun. It's just no fun. You're answering unanswerable questions. You can't answer the question."

Valentine was asked whether he thinks the speculation is affecting Youkilis.

"I can't tell,'' Valentine said. "He's a tough guy. But he'd be inhuman if it didn't affect him, because it's his life, right? Someone on TV, or someone writes about it . . . his wife hears about it and wonders, 'Where are we going to be living?' Again, he's human. It's hard to think it doesn't affect him.''

With Youkilis sidelined, Will Middlebrooks may see his playing time increase. Middlebrooks is part of a logjam, with Youkilis, David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez, at first basethird baseDH as Valentine tries to find the right combination.

The rookie third baseman is, for the first time in his pro career, dealing with infrequent playing time.

"I think his play's been okay,'' said Valentine. "He's faced some tough pitchers, in and out of the lineup. It seems like he's staying very competitive. That changuep that struck him out Tuesday night (by Mark Buehrle) strikes a lot of people out, playing every day or not.

"You have to be strong-minded when you're not playing every day. He's watching the game, he's into the game. If I saw any elevated frustration level or any total decline in performance, I think we'd have to make another decision. It doesn't seem like we're there.''

Valentine warned Middlebrooks at the outset to "fasten his seatbelt."

" 'This is life in the big leagues,' " Valentine said he told the rookie. " 'You're in the fast lane. You're doing great. I believe in you.' . . all that good stuff. But those are just words. Until you experience it, it means nothing.''

Middlebrooks is hitting .300 with 6 homers and 22 RBI, with a .339 OBP and a .508 slugging percentage.

"You have to like what you see,'' said Valentine of Middlebrooks' performance.

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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