A full day's work for Aviles

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A full day's work for Aviles

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It's rare when veteran players make 2 12 hour bus trips in spring training. It's rarer still when they're asked to play the entire nine innings, especially in the first week of Grapefruit League play.

But there was a method to Bobby Valentine's madness when he had Mike Aviles play from start to finish in the Red Sox' 3-3 tie with the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I like to keep watching (Aviles at short),'' said Valentine. "I don't really like to get short glimpses of him right now. I got to see him turn a double play and he was under control.''

He also lauded him for his role in a relay play in the seventh when the Sox cut down Toronto shortstop prospect Adeiny Hechavarria attempting to stretch a double into a triple on a ball hit to right. Valentine said Aviles was in "perfect position" for the relay, then made "a perfect throw" to third baseman Ryan Dent to catch the baserunner.

Aviles said the last time he played all nine innings in a spring game was in 2009, when he was playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

With Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro dealt in the offseason and Jose Iglesias likely needing more seasoning at Triple A, Aviles is the clear favorite to become the everyday shortstop at the beginning of the year.

Aviles hasn't played shortstop with any regularity since 2008, when he played 91 games there for the Kansas City Royals. Since then, he's moved around the infield as more of a utility player.

"Out of all the positions,'' said Aviles, "the one that feels the easiest for things to come back naturally has been short for me. It's the one position I feel like I can take the least amount of reps and get the most comfortable quicker.

"With third, second or even the outfield, I feel like I have to take more reps to feel comfortable, whereas at short, I can take a couple days of groundballs and feel right at home. I'm starting to feel more comfortable playing the game, pretty much.''

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.

Bulpett: Ainge 'really protective' of ability to go to free agency this summer

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Steve Bulpett joins Mike Felger to weigh in on the NBA trade deadline and the lack of moves made by Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics thus far.