BOSTON -- In his first season as a Major League manager, Alex Cora has earned a lot of praise for the way he has been able to keep his team loose and his ability to look at the big picture with nearly every decision he makes.Some of those qualities are
BOSTON -- In his first season as a Major League manager, Alex Cora has earned a lot of praise for the way he has been able to keep his team loose and his ability to look at the big picture with nearly every decision he makes.
Some of those qualities are things Cora picked up in part through osmosis from four years (2005-08) of playing for Terry Francona.
On Monday, Cora will manage against Francona for the first time, as the Indians come to Fenway for an anticipated four-game series between teams that could meet up in the postseason.
"I appreciate everything he did for me," Cora said. "We had a lot of conversations. I'm excited about managing against that team. He has this ability of saying a lot [to the media] and not saying too much and being sarcastic and making fun of [himself] -- I think that's one of his best qualities. He cares about players."
Francona would have been proud of the way Cora answered an inquiry Sunday morning about the Red Sox closing in on the franchise record for wins. It sounded downright Tito-like.
"I look and I know where we're at and I pay attention to the league and everything, but, no, man, [we're not thinking about that]," Cora said. "We play today and then we've got Cleveland and they're a good team. They're one of the best teams in the big leagues so we have to be ready for them."
Though Cora wants to win every game, he learned from Francona to not burn through his high-leverage relievers, even on nights his team is only down a run or two.
"Like I said, we talked about managing a little bit, the whole chasing-wins thing -- he would say to be careful with that, be careful with the bullpen, and this was in '06 when we weren't that good. He's a special guy," Cora said.
Cora highlighted a couple of funny Francona memories on Sunday morning. In J.D. Drew's first season with the Red Sox in 2007, he was struggling to live up to his contract and got too pull-happy. Francona offered him some type of reward if he would start taking advantage of the Green Monster.
"Let's call it a gift," said Cora. "So J.D. first at-bat, he hits the wall. And J.D. is starting to get a lot of gifts from Tito, boom, boom, boom. There was one at the corner of the wall there [in left-center]. Tito was like, 'That one hit the right side of the wall,' and J.D. was like, 'No way. It hit the wall.' They were going back and forth, back and forth during the game and he came up to the video room to see it and we're talking about J.D. making a lot of gifts, you know? They went at it, so they came up and they watched it and actually J.D. was right, the ball hit the wall. He's awesome."
Wright getting close to rehab assignment
Cora said that knuckleballer Steven Wright could start a Minor League rehab assignment this week as a reliever.
Wright has been sidelined since June 23 with left knee inflammation.
"It wouldn't surprise me if he goes on a rehab start next week," said Cora. "He's feeling good about himself. There's probably a live BP coming up in the Cleveland series, and we'll go from there."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.