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Flip-flop over: Benintendi to stay at leadoff

@IanMBrowne
April 13, 2019

BOSTON -- In the winter, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said that Andrew Benintendi would be his leadoff man, with Mookie Betts dropping to second. But once the season started, there was some mixing and matching. Through the first 14 games, Benintendi hit first nine times and Betts led off

BOSTON -- In the winter, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said that Andrew Benintendi would be his leadoff man, with Mookie Betts dropping to second.

But once the season started, there was some mixing and matching. Through the first 14 games, Benintendi hit first nine times and Betts led off in five games.

Upon further review, Cora has made a decision.

“It’s back to Benny,” Cora said. “I think this is the lineup we’re going to run all the way until the end.”

Part of the reason Cora was flip-flopping earlier in the season had to do with right-handed-hitting reserve Steve Pearce being on the injured list.

“Pearce is healthy now, and we can actually maneuver the game a little bit better,” Cora said. “Without Pearce in the game, it was tough to have all those lefties all together. So now, it’s easier to manage, you know? It wasn’t about panicking like some people thought. It was about managing the game.

“You’ve got Mitch [Moreland] hitting third now, you put pressure on them with Pearcey on the bench. You bring the lefty for Benny, and you’ve got Mookie. If they leave the lefty for Mookie, it’s to our advantage. If they leave it there, they might bring the righty for Pearce, but it’s a good matchup for us anyways.”

Last season, Betts led off and won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award. Benintendi batted second and had a solid season. How does Cora think Benintendi is adapting to batting first?

“He’s been good,” Cora said. “Swinging at a lot of pitches on the edges early, little by little, you look up and his average is up there. I don’t know about the on-base percentage. He hasn’t walked too much. Swing and miss on the breaking ball down. So far, so good, yeah.”

Johnson update
Lefty Brian Johnson, who has been on the injured list for six days with elbow inflammation, has yet to resume throwing.

“Nothing right now,” Cora said. “Just treatment. No baseball activities. He's supposed to see a doctor again. I've gotta check with [trainer] Brad [Pearson] but I think it's during the week. I'm not sure if he's travelling with us. I think he's staying back so he'll see a doctor during the week, probably. But I'll get back to you with that tomorrow."

Cora thinks the bullpen has been fine at covering Johnson’s innings, mainly with Marcus Walden and Colten Brewer.

"We've got Waldy and Brew, who can go multiple innings,” Cora said. “It's not the perfect scenario because we like him in certain matchups and all that, but I think Hector [Velazquez], Walden and Brewer, they can give us multiple innings.”

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