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Cora: Surplus of starting-caliber talent a luxury

Bogaerts appears ticketed for five-hole; Sale suffers first hiccup
March 19, 2018

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- What you might perceive as a logjam is something that Red Sox manager Alex Cora views as a luxury.More available starting-caliber position players than spots in the lineup? It will all work out, Cora promised before Monday's 6-5 win over the Phillies.When the Red Sox acquired

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- What you might perceive as a logjam is something that Red Sox manager Alex Cora views as a luxury.
More available starting-caliber position players than spots in the lineup? It will all work out, Cora promised before Monday's 6-5 win over the Phillies.
When the Red Sox acquired J.D. Martinez, the knee-jerk reaction was that Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez were suddenly left to split time at first base, while Martinez would take over as the designated hitter.
For Cora, the situation includes far more variables.
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The rotation system will also include the outfielders. When they get a day off their feet, Martinez can play left or right field, leaving first base open for Moreland and DH for Ramirez.
"I've got a pretty good idea of how we're going to do it. Rest is a part of this," Cora said. "Not just those two guys [Ramirez and Moreland], but everybody else. So we'll find at-bats for everybody. Everybody sees it as a problem. I don't. I'm the one that has to deal with it. I'll be OK and they'll be OK."
Communication will be key.
"We'll talk about it and I think everybody's going to be fine," Cora said. "We'll find plenty of at-bats for everybody and for us to be successful, not only will we have to buy into this, it's a deep group. It's a talented group and it's going to get better during the season. We know that."

Bogaerts, tabbed for five-hole, hammers one
Cora has recently been going with a lineup that has shortstop Xander Bogaerts in the five-hole, and it sounds like he might stick with it for the regular season. Initially, there was some thought about Rafael Devers hitting fifth, but he will probably start the season hitting behind Bogaerts.
Bogaerts unloaded for a solo shot to straightaway center field against Phillies righty Andrew Hutchison in the bottom of the fourth on Monday. The shortstop is having a solid spring, hitting .353 with four doubles, two homers and six RBIs.
One thing Cora would like to see from Bogaerts is to be in more of an attack mode early in the count.
"He'll put the ball in play," Cora said. "There are certain things I've been talking about, being aggressive in the strike zone; he's one of those guys that I noticed last year, he was very passive and he was taking -- we call it bad takes -- fastballs right down the middle. We'll keep preaching aggressiveness."
Sale hurt by lack of command
After strong results in his first two Grapefruit League starts, Red Sox ace Chris Sale labored on Monday, allowing five hits and four earned runs over five innings. He walked three and struck out six. Sale threw 79 pitches, 50 of them for strikes.
The most damaging blow Sale gave up was a three-run homer to Aaron Altherr on a curveball in the fifth.
"Just didn't have bite today," said Sale. "Wasn't sharp. Even my changeup, I threw a couple good ones and [then] would yank a couple of them. Just got to get consistent with it, get a rhythm, get a feel for it. I don't think I threw any good breaking balls today. Just one of those things, like I said, work on it the next couple days, get it right, see what we've got."
Sale will make one final start on Saturday, then is all but certain to pitch Opening Day on March 29, though the Red Sox haven't announced it yet.
"I have to get right, get my secondary pitches where I want to be and command," said Sale. "One thing that really [irks me] is command. Walking guys, hitting guys with breaking balls. That kind of stuff can't happen. That's stupid stuff that kind of gets in the way."
E-Rod ahead of schedule
Cora admitted that left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez has pushed ahead of schedule in his return from right knee surgery. Originally, the Red Sox were certain Rodriguez would miss at least the first couple of weeks of the season, but now there's even a chance he will start the season in the rotation.
Rodriguez will pitch four innings in a controlled Minor League game on Tuesday.
"I've been saying Eduardo has put himself in this spot," said Cora. "I thought it was going to take longer. The work he's put in the weight room, the training room, is amazing."
Steven Wright, recovering from left knee surgery, will pitch a Minor League game on Thursday. Thomas Pomeranz, who is coming from a mild flexor strain in his left forearm, will get his turn to pitch a Minors game on Friday.
Up next: Left-hander David Price makes his second Grapefruit League start in Tuesday's 1:05 p.m. ET home game against the Pirates on Gameday Audio. Price was terrific in his debut, holding the Blue Jays to one hit over four shutout innings. He walked one and struck out five. Richard Hembree will get some work out of the bullpen. Rodriguez will continue his comeback from right knee surgery by pitching in a controlled Minor League game.

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