Theo Epstein says he and Terry Francona are on the same page

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Peter Gammons begs to differ, based on some comments he made Thursday, but Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said Friday that all is well between him and manager Terry Francona.

“There is no disconnect between me and Tito,” Epstein was quoted as saying by the Boston Herald. “I think anyone who’s been around the club on a daily basis can see that. We talk several times a day. We spend a ton of time together. I was in (Francona’s office) today, laughing, joking, like I was yesterday, like I was the day before with him. Obviously, less laughing and joking this month than previously because of the way things are going. We’re on the same page. For eight years, I’ve respected and admired him. I believe the feeling’s mutual.”

Francona’s contract isn’t guaranteed beyond 2011 — there are options worth $4.25 million for 2012 and $4.5 million for 2013 — so there will be some speculation about his job status if the Red Sox complete their collapse and miss the playoffs.

Francona, for what it’s worth, seems to only have this year on his mind.  Asked about 2012, he said:

I don’t feel any different than I ever have. The organization not only has the right, but it’s their obligation to get the right person, the person they think is the best. If at some point they think it needs to be somebody else — other than that, I think it’s disrespectful for me to spend one waking moment think about my situation. We need to win games, so that’s how I intend to do it.

No matter what happens in the next week, it’s hard to imagine the Red Sox bailing on the guy who won World Series in 2004 and ’07.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.