Red Sox fire pitching coach Juan Nieves

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Boston has found the fall guy–or at least the first fall guy–for a pitching staff that ranks dead last among AL teams in runs allowed, firing pitching coach Juan Nieves.

Nieves has held the job since 2013 and Boston won the World Series in his first season, but since the beginning of last year the Red Sox rank 12th among AL teams in runs allowed.

There were plenty of question marks attached to Boston’s rotation coming into the season because of the lack of a clear-cut No. 1 starter, but no one could have expected Justin Masterson, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, and Wade Miley all to have ERAs above (and several way above) 5.00.

No replacement has been named yet.

Yuli Gurriel takes pay cut to $7M to stay with Astros

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HOUSTON (AP) First baseman Yuli Gurriel and the Houston Astros have agreed to a one-year contract with an option for 2022 that guarantees $7 million, a cut of nearly 20% from his 2020 deal.

The agreement was announced hours before the defending AL champions started their first-round playoff matchup against at Minnesota on Tuesday, an odd time to reach a contract for a future season.

Gurriel’s 2020 contract called for an $8.3 million salary and wound up being worth $3,074,074 prorated.

His new deal includes a $6.5 million salary for 2021 and an $8 million club option for 2021 with a $500,000 buyout. Gurriel can earn $2 million in performance bonuses each year based on plate appearances: $250,000 each for 300 and 350 $350,000 apiece for 400 and 450 and $400,000 each for 500 and 550.

He also would get $50,000 for becoming an All-Star, $50,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $100,000 for Word Series MVP, $200,000 for league MVP, $100,000 for second and $50,000 for third. There is a $50,000 bonus for Gold Glove and another $50,000 for Silver slugger.

Gurriel would have been eligible for free agency under a provision in his 2020 contract, even though he does not have the six years of major league service usually required. His new deal includes the same provision.

He hit .232 with six homers, 12 and 22 RBIs in 57 games during the pandemic-shortened season, down from a career-best .298 with 31 homers and 104 RBIs in 2019. He helped Houston reach the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

In five seasons in Houston that followed a stellar career in Cuba, the 36-year-old has hit .287 with 71 homers and 301 RBIs.