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Nat. briefs: Pirates' Hurdle, Tribe's Francona named top managers

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press

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Terry Francona

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - 9:29 pm

NEW YORK — Clint Hurdle has won the NL Manager of the Year award after guiding the Pittsburgh Pirates to the playoffs in their first winning season since 1992.

Hurdle was a runaway winner, selected first on 25 of 30 ballots from a Baseball Writers' Association of America panel in voting totals revealed Tuesday. Don Mattingly of the Los Angeles Dodgers was second and Fredi Gonzalez of the Atlanta Braves finished third.

It is the first Manager of the Year honor for Hurdle. His highest finish had been third in 2007, when he led the Colorado Rockies to the World Series.

The only other Pittsburgh manager to win the award was Jim Leyland in 1990 and 1992. After that, the Pirates endured a record 20 straight losing seasons before going 94-68 this year to capture an NL wild card.

In the American League, Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians was the winner in a close vote.

Francona edged John Farrell of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox by 16 points in Baseball Writers' Association of America balloting announced Tuesday. Francona received 16 of 30 first-place votes to 12 for Farrell.

It was the first Manager of the Year honor for Francona, who led the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. Voting is conducted before the postseason.

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Byrd reportedly close to signing with Phillies

ORLANDO, Fla. — Marlon Byrd is closing in on an agreement with the Philadelphia Phillies after rebounding to hit a career-high 24 homers this year for the New York Mets and Pittsburgh.

A person familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday the deal probably is for two years and could be put in place soon. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

The 36-year-old outfielder was acquired by the Pirates on Aug. 27 and hit .364 in six postseason games, with one homer and five RBIs. He batted .291 during the season and had 88 RBIs, one short of his career best.

Byrd was suspended for 50 games in 2012 following a positive test for a drug that can reduce side effects of steroid use and increase testosterone. At the time, Byrd said he mistakenly used the medication for a recurrence of a condition that earlier required surgery. He says he did not use it for performance enhancement.

His talks with the Phillies were first reported by radio station WIP.

OSU's WR won't be allowed to speak to reporters: Meyer

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It appears that Ohio State wide receiver Evan Spencer won't be speaking to reporters for quite a while.

Spencer said on Monday that Ohio State would “wipe the field” with Alabama and whoever is No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series rankings.

Speaking on the Big Ten coaches' teleconference on Tuesday, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said it would be “a long, long time” before the junior would be permitted to talk to reporters again.

Meyer says he can't stand it when a potential opponent is slighted.

Spencer chuckled while assessing the teams ahead of the third-ranked Buckeyes in the BCS rankings but Twitter and other social media sites lit up with fans who were angry at his words.

Rodgers getting better but not likely to start

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Injured Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Tuesday he never gives up hope on playing, though he is not sure exactly when he will be back on the field.

Rodgers said on his radio show on 540-AM ESPN that he's doing everything he can to return from the fractured left collarbone suffered a week earlier in a 27-20 loss to the Bears. He said he's giving the bone time to heal, and that Tuesday was the best he had felt since getting hurt.

General Manager Ted Thompson replenished depth Tuesday in announcing the signing of Rodgers' former backup Matt Flynn, who has been released this year by the Raiders and Bills.

With Rodgers hurt, Flynn will back up one-time practice squad player Scott Tolzien, who replaced Seneca Wallace in the 27-13 loss Sunday to the Eagles.

Given the circumstances, Tolzien played well after Wallace left with a groin injury after the first series. Coach Mike McCarthy was so impressed that he's already named Tolzien the starter for Sunday's game against the Giants.

Wallace was placed on injured reserve Tuesday to make room for Flynn, the Packers' seventh-round draft pick in 2008 who spent four years in Green Bay.

The ultimate goal is to get back to the 2011 NFL MVP. Rodgers on Tuesday.

pointed to “small victories” in his recovery, like sleeping through an entire night, and putting socks on without being in extreme pain.

“I haven't given up hope on playing any week. It depends on how I heal,” Rodgers said on his radio show. “Obviously this week is probably not going to happen. Not going to happen.”

Pressed again, Rodgers said “probably not going to happen.”

McCarthy said Monday he thought Rodgers might be a couple weeks away, though he didn't have a specific date.

MLB changes coming with expanded replay

ORLANDO, Fla. — Home plate collisions could become a thing of the past, along with blown calls on the bases.

As the offseason market for trades and free-agent signings gets underway, Major League Baseball is considering some pretty radical changes for next season.

Expanded instant replay for umpires’ calls is virtually certain to be in place by opening day, and there’s a chance a rule could be adopted to prevent runners from bowling over catchers at the plate.

“There’s a pretty good possibility that something eventually will happen,” MLB Executive Vice President Joe Torre said Tuesday on the second day of the annual general managers’ meetings. “Whether it’s going to be soon enough to have it done this coming year, that remains to be seen. But I don’t think it’s impossible.”

Outside the formal meeting room, outfielder Marlon Byrd and the Philadelphia Phillies agreed to a $16 million, two-year contract, a huge step up from the $800,000 he earned this year from the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates.

And catcher Brayan Pena finalized a two-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds worth $2,275,000. They were the first of the 168 major league free agents to switch teams this offseason.

Talk of limiting contact at the plate was the day’s most interesting development, one that could make Lou Brock’s shoulder-to-shoulder collision with Bill Freehan during the 1968 World Series and Pete Rose’s bruising hit on Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star game relics of baseball history, like the dead-ball era.

Torre said a written proposal will be developed that will be discussed when GMs gather again during the winter meetings, to be held at Lake Buena Vista from Dec. 9-12.