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NEW YORK – Two championships and eight generally successful seasons with the Boston Red Sox brought Terry Francona exactly zero first-place votes in Manager of the Year balloting.

It took him one year with the surprising Cleveland Indians to bag the prize.

Francona and Clint Hurdle of the Pittsburgh Pirates won the Manager of the Year awards Tuesday after guiding their small-budget teams to impressive turnarounds.

In a close vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America panel, Francona edged old friend John Farrell of the World Series champion Red Sox 112 points to 96 for the American League honor.

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“I have a feeling he wouldn’t trade what they did for this any day of the week,” the 54-year-old Francona said on a conference call from Tucson, Ariz.

The Indians improved by 24 victories to 92-70 and earned their first playoff berth in six years.

Hurdle, 56, was a runaway winner in the NL, selected first on 25 of 30 ballots after taking the Pirates to the playoffs in their first winning season since 1992.

“There’s guys laughing all over the place,” a self-deprecating Hurdle said in an interview on MLB Network. “The players know so many times this season we’d have a big series, getting together just trying to break the ice, I’d tell them, ‘Hey, look guys, you’ve got to step it up, play big this week because I’m going to get outmanaged. I can tell you one thing that’s going to happen: I’ll get outmanaged. So really step it up.’ And they did. They believed me every series.”

MLB mulls rules changes

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 under way, Major League Baseball is considering some radical changes for next season.

Expanded instant replay for umpires’ calls is virtually certain to be in place by opening day, and there is 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, a former catcher, said 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.”

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 million. They were the first of the 168 major-league free agents to switch teams this offseason.

Baseball started using video review in 2008 but limited it to home-run calls. Owners likely will give their go-ahead Thursday for funding and approve the rules when they meet in January.

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