Early notes: Francona shuffles lineup

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Early notes: Francona shuffles lineup

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON With left-hander Brian Duensing (2-1, 2.91 ERA) starting for the Twins Saturday afternoon, Red Sox manager Terry Francona took the opportunity to shuffle his lineup and give a few players some rest.

David Ortiz gets the day off with Kevin Youkilis serving as the designated hitter. J.D. Drew is also sitting, with Mike Cameron playing right field. Jed Lowrie will play third and Marco Scutaro shortstop.

Duensing has held left-handed hitters to a .233 average (compared to .279 for righties) with just one extra-base hit, a triple.

This guys been pretty tough on lefties, Francona said. Were not going to see a lefty for a while. I think its a good time to get Cam in there and it gives Youk a chance to rest; day game after night game, being a little beat up, we use his bat and he won't have to play third. Get Scoot in there.

Left-handed hitting Adrian Gonzalez has appeared in all 32 of the Sox games. But he was not in consideration for serving as the DH today.

Gonzie wants no part of being a DH, Francona said. A lot of guys are like that.

Francona moved Carl Crawford down in the lineup, where he remains, hoping to get the left fielder out of his offensive morass. But with Dustin Pedroia, who is also struggling at the plate, Francona prefers to leave him at the top.

Ive been around him long enough to know that Pedroia will get every bit as hot as he got cold, Francona said. I think you guys probably all would agree. I know my job is to remain positive, but this is an easy one.

"With Carl being new, I thought he was feeling a little bit kind of pressured. I understand that. Its human nature. I thought it would help him. And Carls going to really get going. I know hes starting to show some signs already and then well get him up towards the top of the lineup. But I bounced him around enough early, so well try to let him stay put for a while and get going.

Figuring out Pedeys mechanics is hard. He does some things you wouldnt teach a lot of people, but hes a great player. He's chasing balls out of the zone, especially breaking balls and once you do that all of a sudden a fastball beats you because you're trying to play off the breaking ball. Its easy as a hitter to get caught in between and hes been doing it now for a little bit. Hell snap out of it. Weve all witnessed it: as cold as he is hell get every bit as hot. Its just the way he is.

Francona has yet not heard anything from Major League Baseball regarding his ejection in the second inning Friday night, as he attempted to get an explanation from home plate umpire Angel Hernandez on a balk call. Hes trying to put the incident behind him as quickly as possible. Hes learned from past experience that dwelling on such situations does him no good.

Theres probably two or three times a year where I dont, and it ends up bogging me down for a day or so, he said. I know its happened maybe with the media from time to time or something that happened on the field, and then maybe after the second day I kind of realize, 'Okay, better put this in the rear-view mirror because the only thing its hurting is you.' And I get over it. I think you have to. When you see the hitters throwing their helmets after the first at-bat, you know that theyre still thinking about the night before. It happens. Its human nature, but its a hard way to be productive.

Jason Varitek is scheduled to catch both Daisuke Matsuzaka on Sunday and Josh Beckett on Monday. Normally, the 39-year-old Varitek would not be catching on back-to-back days. But with a day game Sunday followed by a night game Monday, Franconas decisions becomes easier. Varitek caught the entire 13-inning game that began Wednesday night and ended at 2:45 Thursday morning in a loss to the Angels.

I think he felt like he caught a long day, Francona said. Hes doing okay. If things go according to plan, well catch him maybe tomorrow and Monday, day game and night game. As we go through the rotation again well split those guys up a little bit.

The Sox were scheduled to face left-hander Francisco Liriano in the series finale Monday. But Liriano, who no-hit the White Sox on Wednesday, has been pushed back. He threw 123 pitches in the no-hitter, well above his previous high of 97 on April 7, and also has a sore throat. The Sox are expected to face right-hander Nick Blackburn (2-4, 4.41) instead.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.