ST. PETERSBURG -- Already in first place in the American League East and owners of the best record in baseball, the Red Sox got an additional boost on Friday when veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia was activated from the disabled list.
After getting Friday off, Pedroia was in the starting lineup on Saturday at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox are hosting the Braves for a three-game series this weekend.
The 34-year-old Pedroia was limited to 105 games in 2017 and underwent surgery on his left knee following the season to restore cartilage.
"We know how passionate he is, the quality of at-bats he will give us and defensively, what he brings," said Cora. "When healthy, he's one of the best second basemen in the big leagues. I'm looking forward to having him in the lineup. I think his energy is going to help not only on the field but off the field with his leadership.
"And everybody knows about our relationship, so I know people are going to bring it up. It's a day I've been looking forward to, and to have him active and ready to contribute is going to be fun to see."
Pedroia's return spelled the end in Boston for Hanley Ramirez, who was designated for assignment on Friday.
When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.
As for Pedroia, Cora will speak to him on Friday before outlining the immediate schedule for his return to action. Pedroia played seven innings for Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday and Thursday, which is why there's at least a chance Cora will wait until Saturday's 1:05 p.m. ET game to insert him into the lineup.
"Definitely one of the two games he'll play," said Cora, referring to Friday or Saturday.
Cora has thought about where Pedroia will hit in the batting order, but it won't be first or second, as Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi will stay in those spots.
"I have a pretty good idea, but I want to talk to him, sit down with him. He doesn't have a problem with it from what I heard," said Cora. "He wants to contribute."
When Pedroia broke into the Major Leagues, Cora and Mike Lowell were his mentors. Pedroia will now get to experience what it is like to play for Cora as his manager.
"He texted me yesterday, this long text, he almost made me cry -- 'I'll do anything for you, hit whenever, play whenever,' but one thing for sure, our lineup is going to be as long and our bench is going to be better," said Cora. "With all those options [on the bench], we can match up with anyone late in the game."
Getting Pedroia back will allow Eduardo Nunez to go back to his role as super-utility man. Nunez has been used almost exclusively at second base this season.
"People take for granted that Nuney is not going to play that much. Now it's like, 'Let him go.' I think he likes that, to move around," said Cora. "I do feel he's making progress at second base defensively, making the routine plays and all that, but he's at ease when he doesn't have to grind it out at second all the time. You can move him around, and the real Eduardo Nunez will come out."