Sweeney enjoying strong start

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Sweeney enjoying strong start

BOSTON When the Red Sox acquired outfielder Ryan Sweeney from the As in December as part of the trade that also brought closer Andrew Bailey to Boston, most observers and evaluators thought the Sox were getting a light-hitting, good-fielding player.

Sweeney -- who entered this season with a career average of .283, a .346 on-base percentage, and .341 slugging percentage -- has spent the early part of this season surprising those folks.

He is batting .361, fourth in the American League, sixth in the majors, with a .345 OBP, and .556 slugging percentage. Most of his plate appearances, 42, have been in the second spot, where he is hitting .308 (.333 OBP, .487 SLG) with seven doubles and three RBI.

Sweeney leads the major leagues with 12 doubles. In 108 games last season he hit just 11 doubles.

Its always good to get off to a good start with a different team, said Sweeney, who also played two seasons for the White Sox, who drafted him in the second round in 2003. Im enjoying it. The guys have made it an easy transfer and Im just having fun.

Sweeney, who turned 27 in February, said he hasnt made any substantial changes at the plate. But getting regular playing time has helped. He averaged just 95 games and 284 at-bats over the last two seasons with the As.

Not really anything different, he said. Just getting consistent playing time and feeling good. I havent really changed anything. I felt good going from spring training into the regular season, so Ive just tried to stay consistent every game and every at-bat, not giving an at-bat away, even if were up by 10 or down by a few runs or whatever it is.

In spring training manager Bobby Valentine said Sweeney didnt really know himself as a hitter. Sweeney began making adjustments this spring to understand himself better at the plate.

Little things in spring training, just kind of like moving my hands a little bit moreand having a fluid stance, he said. But obviously throughout the year you adjust to different things when different things feel good. But right now I havent really had toIm just trying to go up there and see a hit.

He attributes some of the success to having other left-handed hitters David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez around.

Adrian and Big Papi help me a lot, he said. Just to be able to watch them and talk to them about different approaches to different pitchers and just the way they go about their business in the cage and approaches to their swing and different things. Being able to watch them as a left-handed hitter helps me out a lot.

Sweeney is batting .397 against right-handed pitching this season, just .111 against lefties. He has not made a start against a lefty, going 1-for-9 with three strikeouts overall. It just a matter of time, he believes, before all those numbers change.

My first three years in Oakland and all, before that I was always a starter and I always faced lefties and I was always in there against whoever. It didn't really matter, he said. But sometimes in baseball, you do the match-up thing and last year with not playing a whole lot and not getting to face lefties at all really, I think you kind of get put in that category where maybe people think you can't hit lefties anymore. I dont have a problem facing them. Its just that I havent gotten a lot the last couple of years. So when you go up there and you havent faced them for a couple of years you're not really comfortable facing them,. Especially when youve got guys that are pretty good left-handed pitchers or guys coming out of the bullpen. Thats their one job, is to get you out.

There is another column in his stat line hed like to improve. After 21 games he is still without a home run. In Wednesdays starting lineup only Will Middlebrooks, making his big league debut, and Marlon Byrd, who struggled in the National League before a trade and his first game with the Sox on April 23, also had zeros in the home run column.

Obviously Id like to hit for power but my swing is such a line drive swing that I hit line drives all the time, he said. But in BP I can do it. Its just figuring that out when I can transfer it on certain counts, maybe take bigger swings. But Im just going to try to be the player that I am right now and see how that works out.

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.