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Here's what Cora thought of 2020 Red Sox

@IanMBrowne
November 10, 2020

BOSTON – Once his 3-year-old twins went to sleep, Alex Cora had a lot of time on his hands during the summer of 2020. And as anyone who has ever known him would suspect, Cora spent much of that free time at night watching baseball.

BOSTON – Once his 3-year-old twins went to sleep, Alex Cora had a lot of time on his hands during the summer of 2020.

And as anyone who has ever known him would suspect, Cora spent much of that free time at night watching baseball.

Cora introduced as Red Sox manager

That included the Red Sox, a team he will manage again in 2021. Here are some observations he picked up during a season-long suspension.

The Red Sox need to play faster
“I still believe you’ve got to play fast. You take a look at the teams around the league. The Rays, the Dodgers, the Padres, for how powerful they are, they hit the ball out of the ballpark, but they still run the bases well and are plus teams defensively,” said Cora. “I felt like watching the Red Sox, they were a little bit behind. That’s what I meant with catching up on speed. We did a good job in 2018 with that.

“I do believe for the way the game is going, as far as stolen bases and all that, there’s value in scoring from first. There’s value in going from first to third, there’s value in defense and that’s something I’m going to preach.”

Devers needs to rebound on defense
In Cora’s first stint as manager, the player he seemed to talk the most about was Rafael Devers. Cora fully enjoyed being on the ground floor of the development of such a youthful and talented player. So, yes, Cora noticed how much Devers regressed on defense in 2020 and he plans on helping the third baseman fix that.

“We’re going to talk about positioning with him a lot. And I believe we put him in a good spot two years ago, he was very consistent,” Cora said. “I don’t know about his routine, what happened this year, if it was the same. I’m going to have that conversation with him and [infield instructor] Carlos [Febles], and actually I’m going to talk to [former bench coach and manager] Ron [Roenicke] about it and we’re going to talk to our information department to see how they feel where he was or what he did wrong.

“I do believe his arm plays at third base. He’s got good footwork, it’s just a matter of seeing if there’s something we can do position-wise that can put him in a better spot. But as you guys know, he’s always been one of my main projects in the offseason and that’s not going to change this year.

J.D. will be ‘back’
Cora hardly recognized J.D. Martinez while watching the games on television. The DH was an elite slugger in 2018-19 before regressing with a .680 OPS and a -0.9 WAR, per Baseball-Reference, in ’20. So what happened?

“A lot of bad decisions at the plate. He expanded in. He expanded out and away. I read it. I read about the video stuff. I don’t know. I think with his work ethic and what he does on a daily basis, he was just in a bad spot physically to attack pitches,” said Cora. “Pitch recognition wasn’t there. That wasn’t J.D. We talked a few days ago. He’s very excited for me to get back. I’ve got a few things for him. I’ve got to talk to [hitting coach] Timmy [Hyers], too, to [assistant hitting coach] Pete [Fatse], over him and the rest of the hitters. I’m pretty sure he’s going to have a better season, of course, next year than this year. That’s not hard. I think he’ll be back.”

A new weapon with Verdugo
While Cora will manage the Red Sox without Mookie Betts this time, he does have Alex Verdugo, the main piece of trade compensation the Red Sox got in that blockbuster with the Dodgers.

“Alex is a good player. I saw him with the Dodgers the previous year, a guy that brings a lot of energy to the equation on a daily basis. A good hitter. He can hit lefties, he can hit righties. I think he settled in in the lineup,” said Cora. “Defensively, he did an outstanding job for the team, and for everything that is going on as far as no fans and obviously the protocols and how, quote unquote, uncomfortable it was, the whole situation for a team that didn’t play well, I do believe that he was the best player of the team. The MVP, and I actually spoke to him a few days ago, and what I saw was what I heard on the phone. Looking forward to working with him and making him a better player.”

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