Aviles a pleasant surpise for Sox; comes through again

791382.jpg

Aviles a pleasant surpise for Sox; comes through again

MIAMI -- Two and a half months into the season, David Ortiz leads the Red Sox in RBI with 38, which isn't terribly surprising.

But Mike Aviles being second on the team with 37? That's hardly to be expected.

Aviles collected another RBI Tuesday night and it proved to be huge, since it was the difference in the Red Sox' 2-1 win over the Miami Marlins, snapping a four-game Sox losing streak.

The shortstop came up in the seventh with two outs and Kelly Shoppach on second and the Sox leading 1-0.

"I was just trying to battle and not hit the ball in the infield," said Aviles. "That's really what I've been doing the last few ABs. I was just trying see the ball up and I was fortunate enough that the ball blooped in."

The Sox came into Tuesday having averaged just 3.1 runs per game over the previous eight contests, during which they hit just .221

The two runs Tuesday night hardly represented a breakout for the offense. But the fact that the Sox have been struggling at the plate put an extra premium on every run.

"We haven't been scoring the runs that we normally can score," said Aviles. "We were fortunate to put a couple hits together there and get the win."

Not only is Aviles nipping at Ortiz's heels for the team lead in RBI, but he also leads all major league shortstops in RBI.

"That's kind of cool, I guess," said Aviles. "That just show you how good an offense this team really has, because I feel like I bat with someone on base all the time. I'm just fortunate enough to get hits in those at-bats.

"I try to have good at-bats and help any way I can. I know that if I come up to the plate with someone in scoring position or on base, any hit can help out. The way the pitchers have been throwing the ball lately, we need to put those runs on the board."

Not that Aviles' only contribution came with the bat. He also turned a huge double play with a backhand stab of a hard grounder from Hanley Ramirez with one on and no out in the sixth. In a scoreless game at the time, that started a big 6-4-3 double play.

"I know the surface here plays pretty quick," said Aviles. "Hanley hit that ball pretty good. It was more like I wanted to get down and at least knock it down and if I caught it, I was going to try to turn to. But I wanted to make sure that ball didn't get to the outfield because I didn't want them to get a rally going."

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.