Sox focus on 'small ball' as COVID-IL grows

September 5th, 2021

BOSTON – Red Sox manager Alex Cora learned a lot about dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak by watching how his close friend, Yankees manager Aaron Boone, handled it.

On Sunday, Boston placed scheduled starter Nick Pivetta on the COVID-related injury list. Then the Red Sox announced that Danny Santana was also going on the COVID IL, marking the 11th player (six position players and five pitchers) in the last 10 days.

“It is strange, but honestly, this is something Boonie went through in the season,’’ Cora said. “The way he handled it, from afar, I was like, ‘Wow! This is great. Great job by him.’"

New York had nine players go on the COVID list between the All-Star break and Aug. 8.

So, with all the regular players missing from his lineup, Cora is now changing his managing tactics in some situations -- namely, playing a lot more “small ball.”

The Red Sox sacrifice bunted three times in Saturday’s walk-off win over the Indians. Jonathan Araúz had two and Jack López the other.

“It’s part of the game when this is what you have offensively,” Cora explained. “You play the game offensively to what you have. We’re not going to make excuses. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing until we get guys back.”

Some around the game feel like bunting is giving away outs. Cora said it’s something the club has had to do lately to move runners up for its hottest hitters.

“If you don’t advance runners to get Kyle [Schwarber] at-bats with runners on second and third, shame on us,” Cora said.

The COVID outbreak is certainly a test for Cora and the Red Sox, but they have the right frame of mind.

“It’s not easy,” Cora said. “I would love to have everybody here, but at the same time, it’s part of it. It’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that we like as a group.

“It’s not about winning 30 games in a row at this point. It’s winning series. If we win series, we’ll be there.”

Boston is hoping to have infielder/outfielder Kiké Hernández back on Tuesday, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts and second baseman Christian Arroyo back around mid-week.

Until then, look for the Sox to keep bunting in some key spots.

“It’s fun to watch. We’re playing good defense,” Cora said. “It’s a challenge. It is.”