Chris Sale

Sale has a plan to increase durability in 2018

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Sale has a plan to increase durability in 2018

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — With spring training less than a month away, Chris Sale has a concrete idea of how to extend his dominance throughout all of 2018.

For Sale, a lot of talk at the end of the season centered on durability and rest. He led the majors in pitches per game at 107.1. The left-hander was incredibly successful early last season and started the All-Star Game for the American League for a second year in a row. Still, September and the postseason were out of character.

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One explanation Sale offered: he was, in essence, too amped up for his first year in Boston. 

“It’s just the gradual rise of my throwing program,” Sale said Saturday afternoon at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods of what he can change. “I was new here last year. I came in and I felt like I had to prove something. I hadn’t thrown a single pitch in front of you guys, in front of any of the fans. So I felt, part of me felt I had to come in and say, ‘Hey, this is what you’re getting.’ And you know, I showed up to spring training really ready to go. You know, my arm was in almost season-form, and I think we’re going to gradually build that up this year instead of you know, coming out hot out of the gate.

“Started a bit later trying to ease into it a little more. In terms of working out, started working out earlier, doing Pilates. The same things I’ve been doing conditioning and strength wise, just kind of dialing back my throwing program.”

A plan has been formulated with Sale and the Red Sox staff, including pitching coach Dana LeVangie and manager Alex Cora.

Sale crossed the 300-strikeout plateau for the first time in his career in 2017 and probably would have taken over the team record from Pedro Martinez (313 Ks in 1999) had he made one more start. Sale finished with 308. 

“Yeah, I took some time in the offseason to kind of look back and you know appreciate the season as a whole,” Sale said. “Briefly, though. I mean those are things that like I said you don’t want to get stuck on that. Those aren’t things that are important. I mean they’re cool, they’re flashy but, you know strikeouts don’t get you championships. So, I appreciate it, I know I put a lot of hard work into it. I know it’s not easy to do but, I’m not going to be hung up on that."

The strikeout numbers may diminish some as Sale focuses on fewer wasted pitches. Theoretically, fewer wasted pitches could mean he’ll bring on more contact. But it doesn’t sound like he plans to take any velocity off (more than he does as a normal course of pitching).

"I don't know if it's less effort. It's never less effort,” Sale said. “For me, it's just more focus. I don't need to dial it back, I just think I need to eliminate waste pitches. I'd love to be able to get to the sixth inning on a very regular basis with 80, 85 pitches. Easier said than done and it looks good on paper, but those are kind of the things that we've been talking about. Throwing more effective pitches and things like that.”

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Here's the real problem for the Red Sox with the Giancarlo Stanton trade

Here's the real problem for the Red Sox with the Giancarlo Stanton trade

It may appear Dealer Dave Dombrowski, the man whose career has been built on the mega-deal and star power, was just beat at his own game. But it's not the Giancarlo Stanton trade that will deliver the potential knockout from Brian Cashman, if the trade with the Marlins is indeed finalized.

The desicive blow was cumulative, in all the moves that led up to a point where Dombrowski is tiring and Cashman has enough energy to taunt him with a blockbuster.

As Elias pointed out via ESPN, there’s been only one other time when the team with the most home runs added the player with the most home runs: 1919, when the Yankees traded for Babe Ruth. The Red Sox need one thing above all this offseason: home runs. 

They will still acquire some, you can be sure of that.

“I, for one, can't wait to see how Dave responds to this,” one American League scout said Saturday.

There was foreboding schadenfreude laced in those words, a sense that Dombrowski may overreact. That he’ll do something to alleviate a fan base’s disappointment in seeing Stanton join forces with Aaron Judge, but at an unreasonable cost to the Sox in the long term.

You can only make so many restrictive moves: David Price signings, top-prospect trades and the like. Yes, Stanton’s injury risk and salary qualify as a restrictive move. Even if Stanton wanted to come to Boston, it would have been a straining deal to pull off. The Yankees can more easily replace Starlin Castro because of their farm system.

Now, this is not a defense of the Red Sox. On the contrary: It’s a distinction in where the issue lies. 

The problem is not simply the fact the Sox didn't trade for Stanton, but the fact they both needed a player like Stanton and also lacked the reasonable wherewithal to acquire him. Everything that preceded this point made the Stanton deal less feasible for the Sox and more so for the Yankees. That’s the problem.

The amount of flexibility available is directly a product of baseball leadership. Dombrowski was saddled with some bad contracts from Ben Cherington and the previous administration. The fact that the Red Sox feel constraints (at a time they need to add from the outside to improve) while the Yankees can move freely is a reflection of management. If not necessarily bad Sox management of late, then particularly good Yankees management. Cashman deserves a ton of credit.

Over the summer, it was already apparent that the Yankees were in a position of power when it comes to the ability to add to their team. From the trade deadline: 

But the harsher reality: The Sox have already spent most of their savings. Dombrowski’s already pulled off a blockbuster. More than one. Only two certified gold doubloons remain: Rafael Devers and Jason Groome. 

There are two elements at play here. 

The Sox have been in their competitive window for longer than the Yankees. Dombrowski, being Dealer Dave, has taken his shots. No one can argue with the immediate success of Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale either. 

But who used their prospect capital and large-payroll ability more prudently, Cashman or Dombrowski? Which team will now have the longer competitive window?  

The old rivals both are in a window now. The Sox, despite all their expenditures, are not comfortably positioned to repeat as a division winner.

“I think there’s windows of opportunity because it’s very tough to keep everybody together or hungry or healthy,” Cashman said this spring. “When you have a collection of talent, depending on like how long, how young that talent is, I guess you can keep your window longer. No, I believe in the window stuff. 
 
“You always want to sustain and maintain, but obviously, the way the rules of the game are, the more success — what goes up has to come down, because you’re not getting the high-end draft picks. You’re being penalized for success, which pulls successful teams down, and you’re being rewarded for failure, which is going to catapult people out of the abyss. So, the structure of the game and the rules of the game are designed that make those windows real.”

Cashman has all the elbow grease to keep his window open. Dombrowski is running out.

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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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