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Cora: Sox must win games before Deadline

@IanMBrowne
July 23, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- As the Red Sox opened a 14-game stretch on Monday night against exclusively the Rays and the Yankees, there was a sense of urgency due to both the standings and the calendar. One week from Wednesday is the July 31 Trade Deadline, and the defending World Series

ST. PETERSBURG -- As the Red Sox opened a 14-game stretch on Monday night against exclusively the Rays and the Yankees, there was a sense of urgency due to both the standings and the calendar.

One week from Wednesday is the July 31 Trade Deadline, and the defending World Series champions can’t afford to fall much further back than the three-game deficit they face in the Wild Card standings. To lose any more ground could become all that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski needs to see for his team to be sellers instead of buyers at the Deadline.

“The front office has a job to do,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “Obviously our goals are set to win the World Series. If it doesn’t look that way and they go somewhere else and take another approach, you’ve got to respect that. At the end, we have to perform and we have to win games.

“We haven’t been consistent about it. We have to play better, win games, and I’m not saying put pressure on [the front office], but at the same time show them yeah, this group is capable. We know the group is talented. It’s just a matter of going out there and performing.”

All season, the Red Sox have felt they have the talent to compete with anyone -- yet it hasn’t translated to on-the-field performance. With waiver trades no longer allowed in August and beyond, Dombrowski has just one Deadline on the acquisition calendar, and it comes in the middle of next week.

“That’s the nature of the business,” Cora said. “I think everyone is smart [enough] around here to understand how it works. We do need to play better. Everyone knows it. We’ve been talking about this since [the first road trip of the season in] Oakland.”

If the Red Sox end up as buyers, they could potentially add some bullpen help or a right-handed bat. If the standings dictate they become sellers, Dombrowski could look to upgrade a farm system that has taken a hit in recent years.

Moreland to return on Tuesday

The Red Sox will activate Mitch Moreland on Tuesday and are expected to have him back in the lineup for the first time since June 7, when he injured his right quad in his first game back after spending time on the injured list due to a lower back strain.

At last, Moreland is healthy again and hoping to give the Red Sox a boost down the stretch. The team has not yet announced a corresponding roster move.

“Obviously it’s a little bit frustrating but I was trying to work as hard as I could to get back,” Moreland said. “Feeling a lot better. Obviously, there’s still going to be some monitoring to it but for the most part I’m ready to go.”

Moreland was with the team for Monday’s series opener against the Rays, but Cora wanted to give the veteran a day to get his feet underneath him. In his Minor League rehab stint with Triple-A Pawtucket, Moreland went 0-for-13 with a walk.

“Let’s just say I didn’t waste any hits down there,” quipped Moreland.

Worth noting

• Cora was somewhat surprised that first baseman Michael Chavis didn’t feel better on Monday -- a day after he was given the day off with back spasms suffered on Saturday night. The hope was that Chavis would return for the opener in Tampa Bay, but he still wasn’t feeling well enough. That left Cora with no choice but to start the left-handed-hitting Marco Hernandez at second base against Rays lefty Jalen Beeks. Sam Travis got the start at first base.

“We thought that today he was going to feel better,” Cora said. “He’s still getting treatment. He’s not going to swing today. With the turf, I don’t think we’re going to make him take grounders. Let’s see where it takes us. I thought for sure that with one day and the way he talked about it, when we took him out, he was going to be in a better spot today.”

Travis delivered, homering in the third inning - one of three Sox homers in the frame along with J.D. Martinez and Andrew Benintendi.

• First baseman Steve Pearce finally seems to be turning a corner as he recovers from a left knee injury that he suffered on a Minor League rehab assignment when he was coming back from a lower back injury. One of Boston’s trainers traveled from St. Petersburg to Fort Myers to check in on Pearce.

“Pearce is doing better actually, swinging a bat. It seems like the last few days he’s kind of turned the corner as far as physically,” said Cora.

• The news is not as positive on knuckleballer Steven Wright, who is also in Fort Myers recovering from a deep bone bruise on his right big toe that occurred against the Dodgers on July 14.

“Not great the last few days,” said Cora. “Still sore. It’s not broken but he’s sore. It’s kind of limited him.”

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