Cherington weighs options on international prospects

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Cherington weighs options on international prospects

MILWAUKEE -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is heading to the Dominican Republic Friday to discuss some changes to the team's international department and also to watch highly-regarded Cuban prospect, Yoenis Cespedes, a five-tool right-handed hitting outfielder.

Cespedes, who has defected from Cuba and has already worked out for other clubs, is 26 years old. Reports have him seeking a similar deal as the one given to fellow countryman Aroldis Chapman (30 million) two years ago.

"He's certainly an intriguing talent," said Cherington. "He's a guy who's performed in Cuba. He's a right-handed hitting outfielder with tools and power and he's been impressive in some workouts. But we need to get to know him a lot better. We'll know him better after this weekend than we do now."

The Sox are in the market for a right-handed bat in right field, but Cherington was unsure if Cespedes would be ready to play in the big leagues in 2012.

"I couldn't say yes or no," he said. "I don't think we know him well enough yet. It's hard to translate performance in Cuba to the big leagues. We can try to do it, but it's hard. Even the highest profile Cuban free agents have needed some assimilation and transition to baseball in the States.

"There does tend to be a bit of a transition. Very few guys have stepped into the big leagues and been successful right away. Guys have stepped into the big leagues, but not necessarily been successful right away."

Cherington seemed less willing to confirm that the Sox will be players for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. Darvish is expected to be posted by his Japanese team later this month and will the most sought-after Japanese pitcher since Daisuke Matsuzaka signed with the Red Sox in December of 2006.

Matsuzaka, who will miss most of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery last summer, won 33 games in his first two seasons. But he's been both unproductive and dogged by injuries over the last three seasons, making the 103 million commitment (split almost evenly between the posting fee and a six-year contract) a poor investment.

"The timing is different for Matsuzaka and Darvish," said Cherington, "in the sense that we've got a lot invested already in our starting rotation whereas in the winter of 2006, we didn't . . . so there was a little bit more of an opening to get in aggressively on Daisuke. That may not be present this winter. We'll do our due diligence and be prepared, but, if we're not as aggressive it's not because we're scared of the waters and more because this offseason, with the needs we have and the resources we have, we may need to focus elsewhere."

Indeed, the Sox have 148 million committed to five starters -- Matsuzaka, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Blakely: Jae Crowder is more than 'just another guy' on Celtics

Blakely: Jae Crowder is more than 'just another guy' on Celtics

As the NBA trade deadline gets closer and closer, A. Sherrod Blakely helps shed some light as to why the Boston Celtics may be unwilling to part ways with Jae Crowder