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Clinching in NY had added meaning for Cora

September 21, 2018

CLEVELAND -- As Alex Cora sat in his office at Yankee Stadium late Thursday night and surveyed his team's celebration after winning the American League East, it suddenly hit him.Solidifying a division title in his rookie season as a manager while being in New York was perfectly fitting.It was in

CLEVELAND -- As Alex Cora sat in his office at Yankee Stadium late Thursday night and surveyed his team's celebration after winning the American League East, it suddenly hit him.
Solidifying a division title in his rookie season as a manager while being in New York was perfectly fitting.
It was in the Big Apple on Oct. 15, 2017, on the off-day between Games 2 and 3 of the AL Championship Series, that Cora met the Red Sox's brass for a job interview. At the time, he was the Astros' bench coach.
And it wasn't long into the interview when Cora started to get a good vibe that the job could be his.
"Like I said, full circle," Cora said. "I still remember walking into that suite with all those baseball guys, and in the beginning I was a little bit intimidated, but at the end I was like, 'Yeah.' I felt very comfortable. To be able to [win the division] in New York, it was very special."
Reflecting back on the interview process, Cora wanted to manage the Red Sox so badly that he actually passed up potential opportunities with two other teams.
"It's cool to say it, but there were two teams that called, and I'm like, 'No, I'm good. I'm in in the middle of the process and we're going somewhere else,'" said Cora. "It felt good, because I'd been, not fighting for it but it's been going on for a few years, the interview process and to tell somebody no, it was, 'Hey, I'm in power now.' This is the place I wanted to be. It's the team, I played here, it's a fun place to play, I loved it.
"And the whole baseball [passion] thing [in Boston], kind of like fits who I am. Nothing against the other organizations, because if they would have offered me something, then hey, I'd have to take it. But I think here kind of like was the perfect fit. When Dave [Dombrowski] called me right away it was, 'Yeah let's go.'"
Studying the Athletics
It seems pretty clear the Red Sox will meet either the Yankees or the Athletics in the AL Division Series. The Red Sox know all about the Yankees, having played them 16 times already this season. But they haven't played the Athletics since May 16, at which time Cora anointed them as an emerging team in the AL before they even took off. The A's took four of six from the Red Sox in the regular season.
"One thing for sure," said Cora. "We've got to dig into the Athletics. Five-hour flights are tough. If we've got a chance to do that, it would be great, but we have to dig into the Athletics and what they're doing. We haven't played them since May. I remember what I said when we played them: 'Get them out of here.' I saw it. I was like, 'This team is going to be good.'
"We've got to be ready actually for three teams, I think. The Rays are still in the hunt. Right now, they're like the best team in baseball. We'll start digging into information. We'll start talking about rosters and matchups and what we need to do. The opponent is going to dictate what we're going to do."
Cora said the pitchers who make up his rotation in the playoffs could depend on the opponent.
"We saw what happened this week. We have a pretty good idea who matches up well with the Yankees," said Cora. "But we know we have to take care of seeing the A's. They're tough because they matchup. If there's a lefty, they go with righties. If there's a righty, they go with lefties. We'll see if it's in Oakland. Obviously playing there is a lot different. There's a lot of stuff that goes on, but we'll start doing that stuff tomorrow."
And on the next day, they rested
A day after clinching the division title, Cora posted a lineup that didn't include Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi or Ian Kinsler. J.D. Martinez was supposed to be off as well.
"I texted J.D., like, at 1 [p.m.]. 'Hey, you're not playing today.' And then he texts me back, 'Yes, I'm playing.' I called him and said, 'You're not playing.' 'Yeah, I'm playing. I want to play.' So it's up to them, too," said Cora. "We go, 'Do you want to play right field?' 'No, I'll DH today.' So we'll talk to them and explain the whole thing."
Cora expects to have frequent communication with his players for the final regular-season games regarding playing time. Anyone he'd like to get rest for?
"Xander [Bogaerts]," said Cora. "He's been playing a lot and you guys know how I feel about him as far as how big and physical he is playing that position. We'll take care of him, and at the same time, I want him to get 100 RBIs. I know he hasn't talked about it, but I know that will be cool for him to accomplish that, and I'm not going to get in the way of that. He'll play, he'll get that, I know he will, but we'll take care of him, too."

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