Notes: Crawford delivers grand performance


Notes: Crawford delivers grand performance

By Jessica Camerato Follow @JCameratoNBA
By Maureen Mullen Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON -- It had been over a year since Carl Crawford last cleared the bases with a grand slam. The old feeling quickly came back on Saturday as he belted his first one as a member of the Red Sox in their eight-run fourth inning against the Texas Rangers.

Its a good feeling when the stadiums cheering for you like that and everybodys happy, he said following the Red Sox' 12-7 win.

Crawford missed Fridays game with a stomach illness but bounced back the following day, finishing the game with two hits (including a double) and four RBI.

His offensive performance was a turnaround from a recent three-game series against the New York Yankees in which he went 3-for-12 and a homestand where he had gone just 3-for-19 prior to Saturdays game.

When you hit a grand slam, it definitely helps your confidence out a little bit, just hoping thats something that can get you going, he said, adding, Ive been feeling all right. Unfortunately I cant go 5-for-5 or something like that but Ive been feeling better.

After a slow start and inconsistent production this season, solid performances like this are often contrasted with previous struggles. Crawford stays looking ahead to the remainder of the season -- and to the postseason -- while leaving the rest behind him.

The games that passed, I dont really worry about them, he said. I just try to take the approach try to do well the next day and the day after that. Everything that happened is pretty much behind me.

The Red Sox plan to do the same.

Said Terry Francona, If his batting average at the end of the year is a little short of what expectations were, that doesnt mean he cant be a force like he was today.

Josh Reddick had a career-high four hits (he also scored three runs) but his night was cut short when he was hit on the left hand by a pitch from Darren Oliver in the eighth inning. X-rays taken after the game came back negative and he will ice his hand for treatment.

We didnt see anything too serious, so luckily missed the bone and just keep icing and covering it up and wrapping it up and reevaluate tomorrow, he said. Its a lot better. The numbing went away about ten minutes after it happened. Its a good sign.

Reddick only recalls being hit in the majors once before, in 2009 -- a 95 mile-an-hour fastball off his ankle. While he does notice a difference in getting hit in the majors and minors, he tries to avoid it either way.

A little bit of a difference, he said. They all hurt but Ive never been a guy who gets hit a lot so I like to get out of the way. But any time I get hit I dont really like it.

Francona, who expects Reddick to be sore on Sunday, offered plenty of praise for the outfielder.

So many times hes given us such a lift, and thats hard for young players to do that, he said. Were in the middle of a pennant race and this kid comes in, like when Carl Crawford wasnt playing, and gave us a lift there. And now hes playing the majority of right field and hes had some pretty good days. He had a little time there when he kind of came back, they made some adjustments, but he still has that ability to put some sock in his bat, not just singles. Theres some production in that bat.

Jed Lowrie, who started at shortstop, also left the game in the fourth inning with left shoulder tightness. Jed is just stiff, I think probably from a little bit of fatigue. Hes played a lot, said Francona. I dont think well play him tomorrow. Hell certainly be available, so were OK there. That might be me overreacting a little bit. Just dont want to lose guys.

Adrian Gonzalez turned two unassisted double plays which, according to Elias, makes him the first Red Sox first baseman in the Divisional Era to do so.

Dustin Pedroia hit his 200th career double in the sixth inning.

Jacoby Ellsbury (1-for-3) extended his hitting streak to eight games. He is batting .323 during that stretch.

Erik Bedard made the start on Saturday, following JonLester on Thursday and Andrew Miller on Friday. That marks the first time sinceMay 18-20, 1995, the Sox have started three lefties in a row. The Sox went 1-2in those games.

Entering August, Matt Albers had an ERA of 2.09.In 12 games since Aug. 1, spanning 12 23 innings, he has allowed 19 earnedruns with eight walks, 11 strikeouts, and four home runs, for a 13.50 ERA. Hehas allowed runs in eight of the 12 outings. He is not hurt, though, Francona said.

No, hes had a tough time, Francona said. Hisvelocitys good. Sometimes his velocitys real good. Theres been times whenhes been behind the count and paid the price and theres been times when hesmade mistakes over the middle of the plate. When hes good hes working aheadand hes allowing that two-seamer to just come through the zone with some life,an occasional breaking ball andrightnow its elevating a little bit.

Francona is not considering giving Albers a mental ofphysical break. No, actually he wants to pitch more, Francona said. Physicallyhes fine so . . . sometimes for whatever reason he goes through ruts or things dontgo well. If you look up at the end of the year and his ERAs a little higherbecause he had that one stretch, that doesnt necessarily mean he can't be thatguy again that hes been for most of the year. Just his ERA might pay the pricea little bit."

With the Sox getting pummeled by the Rangers Friday night, Albersentered with the Sox trailing by seven runs, a lower pressure situation than hehas pitched earlier in the season. He gave up three runs.

Things kind of go hand-in-hand, Francona said. When your startergoes an inning and a third, somebodys got to pitch. Were just trying to lineit up where last night we had it mapped out where Wake was going to come in andhopefully finish the game. So we had right-handers coming up for the most partbefore Wake and it seemed like a good time to just limit Albers to one inning andthen we could bring in Tim Wakefield.

Francona said he is not yet ready to line uphis starting rotation in preparation for the postseason.

When we know were supposed to, he said. Not until. Wecertainly look at things like we always do but we also dont want to get aheadof ourselves. Were trying to do what we do.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at!JCameratoNBA

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.