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Cora admits mistake in Sunday's win

After comeback, manager forgot to replace Martinez in outfield
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- In a refreshing display of candor, Red Sox manager Alex Cora admitted that he was so caught up in the excitement of Sunday's stirring comeback in the bottom of the eighth that he made a strategical oversight in the ninth inning of an eventual 8-7 win over the Rays.

With a one-run lead, Cora kept J.D. Martinez in the game in left field even though center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was not in the starting lineup that day and was available off the bench.

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BOSTON -- In a refreshing display of candor, Red Sox manager Alex Cora admitted that he was so caught up in the excitement of Sunday's stirring comeback in the bottom of the eighth that he made a strategical oversight in the ninth inning of an eventual 8-7 win over the Rays.

With a one-run lead, Cora kept J.D. Martinez in the game in left field even though center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was not in the starting lineup that day and was available off the bench.

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Under normal circumstances, Cora would have put Bradley in to center while shifting Andrew Benintendi to left.

So what happened?

"I'm going to be honest with you, we scored six runs and we were so excited about it and the manager missed that one," said Cora.

In a follow-up question, Cora was asked why he was so honest with the media about the mistake, even though it didn't hurt the Red Sox.

"Because I did [make a mistake]. Why lie? It happens," said Cora. "Everybody saw that. I think I ask our guys to be genuine, transparent and responsible. So if I am asking them to be that way, I better be that way, because if I say something else, they know I am not telling the truth."

Rehabbing Thornburg bringing the heat

There was some good news on the rehab front. Reliever Tyler Thornburg, who was pitching in an extended spring game in Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday, hit 95 mph on the radar gun.

"That's a good sign," said Cora. "He's still in his progression. Still, the changeup is not there yet, offspeed pitches, but to see his velocity get there, that's' a good sign. He'll be in Fort Myers just with an extended program still throwing his games and then we'll make a decision at the end of the week."

Thornburg had a procedure done last June to repair thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder. He hasn't thrown a pitch for the Red Sox in a regular-season game since being traded to Boston on Dec. 6, 2016.

Johnson or Velazquez on Saturday?

With Drew Pomeranz set to make another rehab start on Friday for Double-A Portland, the Red Sox will start Brian Johnson or Hector Velazquez on Saturday against the Orioles. Both pitchers made starts the first turn through the rotation and have been used out of the bullpen in recent days.

"We'll see how it goes the next few days, see who we use and who we don't use and go from there," said Cora. "We'll probably have to make a decision, especially for that Saturday game for who we're going to start. They're very right-handed, the Yankees. Same with Baltimore. It's going to be one of those that probably tomorrow we'll make a decision who is going to start there and we'll go from there. "

Pedroia plan

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia ran the bases on Tuesday, and he will continue training under the watch of Boston's medical staff for the remainder of this homestand. Next week, when the Red Sox go the West Coast, Pedroia will continue his rehab in Fort Myers.

"If you talk to him, he's going to say he's homeless there [in Fort Myers]," quipped Cora. "We're going to take it easy with him. It's a big step. For him, it'll be better now to go to Fort Myers with the weather and the controlled environment and go from there. You've seen him taking ground balls. He's moving well. I said it two days ago, he's moving better than he moved in October. I'm very happy with the progress."

Will Pedroia play extended spring games as soon as he arrives in Fort Myers?

"No, not quite. Probably track pitches most likely," said Cora. "We don't want him to run the bases yet [in games]. I think as controlled of an environment that we can have for him to at least start getting to baseball activities."

Pedroia underwent a cartilage restoration procedure on his left knee in the offseason. He is expected to be out until at least late May.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

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