Middlebrooks sits as Sox face Tigers in series finale

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Middlebrooks sits as Sox face Tigers in series finale

BOSTON -- Tonight it's Will Middlebrooks' turn to sit as the Red Sox look to complete a four-game sweep of the Tigers:

Daniel Nava LF
Ryan Sweeney RF
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
David Ortiz DH
Kevin Youkilis 3B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Mike Aviles SS
Scott Podsednik CF
Nick Punto 2B

Josh Beckett P

Some notes from the Red Sox:

HIGH WATER MARK: With a 6-4 win over the Tigers Wednesday night, their third straight victory, the Red Sox improved to 26-24 and are a season-high two games over .500 . . . The Sox surpassed the .500 mark for the first time this year after Tuesday nights win . . . It had been the longest the club had gone at the beginning of a season without going over .500 since the 1996 squad crossed that mark for the first time on Aug. 25 (66-65).

IN THE STANDINGS: The Sox are in fifth place in the A.L. East, 2 12 games behind the division-leading Orioles and Rays, their smallest deficit since also being 2 12 back after play on April 28 . . . This is the latest into a calendar year that Boston has stood in last place since September of 1997 . . . With a win tonight, the Sox will move into a tie for fourth place with Toronto, which is off tonight and is 27-24, and will be within two games of first place in the division for the first time since the end of play on April 16.

PAPI THROUGH 50: With a 2-for-4 effort last night, including a two-run homer, David Ortiz brought his season hit total to a team-best 61, tied for sixth-most in the A.L. . . . According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 61 hits ties the most he has ever had in his first 50 games of a season. He also had 61 hits in his first 50 games in 2007, en route to a career-high 182 hits . . . Ortiz is tied with the Rangers' Josh Hamilton and the Reds' Joey Votto for the Major League lead with 30 extra-base hits.

10-SPOT FOR GONZO: Adrian Gonzalez has hit safely in a season-high 10 straight games dating back to May 20, the second-longest active stretch in the Majors (Miami's Jose Reyes has hit in 11 straight) . . . Gonzalez is batting .300 (12-for-40) with 4 doubles, 1 homer, 6 RBI and 6 runs over the 10-game span.

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.

Massarotti: '0% chance Ortiz comes out of retirement'

Massarotti: '0% chance Ortiz comes out of retirement'

Tony Massarotti in the Cumberland Farms lounge believes there is 0% chance David Ortiz comes out of retirement.