And the Cy Young winners are...

941437.jpg

And the Cy Young winners are...

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- R.A. Dickey languished in the minors for 14 years, bouncing from one team to another before finally perfecting that perplexing knuckleball that made him a major league star.David Price was the top pick in the draft and an ace by age 25, throwing 98 mph heat with a left arm live enough to make the most hardened scout sing.Raised only 34 miles apart in central Tennessee, Dickey and Price won baseball's Cy Young awards on Wednesday -- one by a wide margin, the other in a tight vote.Two paths to the pantheon of pitching have rarely been more different."Isn't that awesome?" said Dickey, the first knuckleballer to win a Cy Young. "It just shows you there's not just one way to do it, and it gives hope to a lot of people."Dickey said he jumped up and yelled in excitement, scaring one of his kids, when he saw on television that Price edged Justin Verlander for the American League prize. Both winners are represented by Bo McKinnis, who watched the announcements with Dickey at his home in Nashville, Tenn."I guess we can call him Cy agent now," Price quipped on a conference call.The hard-throwing lefty barely beat out Verlander in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, preventing the Detroit Tigers' ace from winning consecutive Cy Youngs.Runner-up two years ago, Price was the pick this time. He received 14 of 28 first-place votes and finished with 153 points to 149 for Verlander, chosen first on 13 ballots."It means a lot," Price said. "It's something that I'll always have. It's something that they can't take away from me."Other than a 1969 tie between Mike Cuellar and Denny McLain, it was the closest race in the history of the AL award.Rays closer Fernando Rodney got the other first-place vote and came in fifth.The 38-year-old Dickey was listed first on 27 of 32 National League ballots and totaled 209 points, 113 more than 2011 winner Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez finished third.Cincinnati right-hander Johnny Cueto and Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel each received a first-place vote, as did Gonzalez. Kershaw had two.Dickey joined Dwight Gooden (1985) and three-time winner Tom Seaver as the only Mets to win the award. The right-hander went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, making him the club's first 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990, and became the first major leaguer in 24 years to throw consecutive one-hitters.Perhaps most impressive, Dickey did it all during a season when the fourth-place Mets finished 74-88."It just feels good all over," he said on MLB Network.Dickey switched from conventional pitcher to full-time knuckleballer in a last-ditch effort to save his career. It took him years to finally master the floating, darting pitch, which he often throws harder (around 80 mph) and with more precision than almost anyone who used it before him."I knew what I was going to be up against in some regard when I embraced this pitch," Dickey said.He was the first cut at Mets spring training in 2010 but earned a spot in the big league rotation later that season and blossomed into a dominant All-Star this year. He led the NL in strikeouts (230), innings (233 2-3), complete games (five) and shutouts (three) -- pitching through an abdominal injury most of the way."I am not a self-made man by any stretch of the imagination," Dickey said. "The height of this story, it's mind-blowing to me, it really is."A member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic team and a first-round draft pick out of Tennessee, Dickey was devastated when the Texas Rangers reduced their signing-bonus offer from more than 800,000 to 75,000 after they discovered during a physical that he was missing a major ligament in his pitching elbow.Undeterred, perseverance got him to the big leagues anyway. When he failed, the knuckleball brought him back.Among those he thanked ceaselessly for helping him on that long and winding road to success were all his proud knuckleball mentors, including Charlie Hough, Tim Wakefield and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro."It brings a real degree of legitimacy I think to the knuckleball fraternity and I'm glad to represent them and I'm certainly grateful to all those guys," Dickey said. "This was a victory for all of us."Dickey said he received 127 text messages and 35-40 phone calls in the moments immediately following the Cy Young announcement.The only call he took was from Niekro, a 318-game winner from 1964-87. The first texts Dickey responded to were from Wakefield and Hough."Most well-deserved," Niekro said in a comment provided by the Hall of Fame. "I'm super proud of him, as a pitcher and as an individual."Dickey has one year left on his contract at 5.25 million and New York general manager Sandy Alderson has said signing the pitcher to a multiyear deal is one of his top offseason priorities. Alderson, however, would not rule out trading his unlikely ace."I believe the Mets are going to be a lot better and I want to be part of the solution," Dickey said, adding that he hopes the sides can strike a deal and he'd be happy to end his career in New York."I want to be loyal to an organization that's given me an opportunity," he said. "At the same time, you don't want to be taken advantage of. I've been on that side of it, too, as a player."Price went 20-5 to tie Jered Weaver for the American League lead in victories and winning percentage. The 27-year-old lefty had the lowest ERA at 2.56 and finished sixth in strikeouts with 205.Verlander, also the league MVP a year ago, followed that up by going 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA and pitching the Detroit Tigers to the World Series. He led the majors in strikeouts (239), innings (238 1-3) and complete games (six).Price tossed 211 innings in 31 starts, while Verlander made 33. One factor that could have swung some votes, however, was this: Price faced stiffer competition in the rugged AL East than Verlander did in the AL Central."I guess it's a blessing and a curse at the same time," Price said. "There's not an easy out in the lineups every game. It feels like a postseason game."The No. 1 pick in the 2007 amateur draft out of Vanderbilt, Price reached the majors the following year and has made three straight All-Star teams.Despite going 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA in 2010, he finished a distant second in Cy Young voting to Felix Hernandez, who won only 13 games for last-place Seattle but dominated most other statistical categories that year.The two MVP awards will be announced Thursday. Verlander's teammate, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, is a leading contender in the American League.NOTES:The last AL pitcher to win back-to-back Cy Youngs was Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1999 and 2000. San Francisco RHP Tim Lincecum did it in the National League in 2008-09. ... Price and Dickey became the fourth pair of Cy Young winners born in the same state, according to STATS. The others were Jim Lonborg and Mike McCormick in 1967 (California), Viola and Orel Hershiser in 1988 (New York) and Pat Hentgen and John Smoltz in 1996 (Michigan). ... Niekro and his brother, Joe, both finished second in Cy Young voting, as did fellow knuckleballer Wilbur Wood.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days. 

BART, transportation among issues A's tackling in ballpark search

BART, transportation among issues A's tackling in ballpark search

MESA, Ariz. — The research and fact-finding continues for the A’s as they work toward deciding where to build their new ballpark in Oakland.

Team president Dave Kaval, in Arizona to briefly soak up the spring training vibe, says the team is still gathering all the information it can on the four locations being considered — the current Coliseum site, Howard Terminal, Laney College and Brooklyn Basin, which like Howard Terminal is a waterfront site.

Place an asterisk next to “four,” because as Kaval explains, there’s multiple spots a ballpark could be built at some of the locations.

For example, “there’s a couple different ways in the Lake Merritt area to orient a ballpark,” he said Sunday. “Each one has to be studied individually, because there’s traffic and parking issues that change depending on where you put it. There’s a couple ways it can work in and around Lake Merritt. So we kind of are looking at it as two different options.”

The research will continue for the “next couple of months,” according to Kaval, meaning it doesn’t seem any decision is forthcoming soon. But he reiterated that an announcement will come during 2017.

Kaval was asked how important it was for a ballpark to be near a BART station.

“I think if you’re in a certain range of a BART station, it doesn’t matter if it’s one block or two blocks,” he said. “But if you start getting a little farther, it does change people’s willingness to actually take that public transportation to the venue.”

Howard Terminal, located just north of Jack London Square, is a 20-25 minute walk to the nearest current BART station (12th Street). There’s been speculation that a new station could be built closer to Howard Terminal if a stadium went up. Kaval also said the A’s would consider some sort of shuttle service were they to build at Howard Terminal, and they’re researching the ferry options for such a location.

Long story short, there’s still plenty of transportation and environmental issues to sort out before the A’s settle on a site to build. In the meantime, fans will be in for a treat in the upcoming season when they arrive at the Coliseum.

The A’s gutted the West Side Club and are rebuilding it as Shibe Park Tavern, named after the franchise’s former home in Philadelphia. It will include bricks and other materials from the old ballpark, obtained from the Philadelphia Historical Society.

The A’s will also launch “Champions Pavilion”, which will include anywhere from eight to 16 local food trucks that will be stationed between the Coliseum and Oracle Arena during most home games. Ticket holders will have in/out privileges, with video monitors outside showing the game.

Nights when there’s a Warriors home game could make it tougher to pull off the full operation — Warriors playoff games will be a particular challenge, Kaval said — but the A’s will work with the Coliseum’s Joint Powers Authority to smooth things out as much as possible.

According to Kaval, the A’s are spending between $600,000-$700,000 to improve the current in-house concession stands, making it possible to cook inside the stands themselves as opposed to transporting food from the kitchen.

The efforts received a thumbs-up from A’s manager Bob Melvin.

“We’re there until we’re not,” Melvin said of the Coliseum. “We’re gonna be there for a period of time, so I appreciate the fact that he’s trying to spruce it up a little bit for our fans, give them more options for food and just create a better atmosphere in our ballpark.”