LAS VEGAS -- Fresh off the winningest season in Red Sox history, manager Alex Cora is already brainstorming for ways to get more production from his team in 2019.And he's already decided on a significant change at the top of the order. Mookie Betts will move from the leadoff spot
LAS VEGAS -- Fresh off the winningest season in Red Sox history, manager Alex Cora is already brainstorming for ways to get more production from his team in 2019.
And he's already decided on a significant change at the top of the order. Mookie Betts will move from the leadoff spot to the No. 2 spot. Andrew Benintendi, who batted second last year, will move to the top of the order.
The change is somewhat surprising only because of how committed Cora was to Betts batting first in 2018. In fact, Betts batted first in all 131 games he started last season.
So why the change?
"It makes sense. You guys saw what happened towards the end of the season, he became very passive again," Cora said. "I know what type of hitter he is. But I think doing that, Benny can be aggressive, too, and he's a good runner. He gets on base, and I put it this way to Mookie: 'If you play 162 games, you're going to come up 162 at-bats with nobody on.' And last year, what I wanted from him in the leadoff spot we accomplished. It's a different season and we have to make adjustments, and that's where we're going to go."
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Cora has been contemplating the change ever since the Red Sox won the World Series on Oct. 28.
"Been [thinking] about it for a month and a half, between plane rides and parades and eating and all that," said Cora. "But I think we can't expect that is going to be the same thing next year. We have to make adjustments, and talking to [analytics specialist] Zack [Scott] -- and everybody knows how people think and feel about the second hitter of the lineup.
"So we're going to maximize that. It's not that we did it wrong last year. It worked for us, but it's a new season. And we have to turn the page, and I think that's a good way to do it."
The lineup adjustment was one of several topics Cora touched on in his press conference at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday. Here is a sampling of the rest.
Sixth sense: The lineup isn't the only thing Cora is already consumed with for 2019. He is already plotting his starting rotation for the first road trip of the season, in which the Sox will come out of the gate with 11 games in 11 days.
"There's a good chance in Game No. 6 we're going with the sixth starter," Cora said.
Cora was careful with his starting pitchers last season, and given the workload that the team endured in October, he will probably even take that to another level next season. With Christopher Johnson, Hector Velazquez and Steven Wright offering depth beyond the starting five, Cora should have the luxury of resting starters whenever he feels it is necessary.
Devers gets trainer: Cora had bold hopes for Rafael Devers last season, thinking that the young third baseman could have a 30/100 campaign. A year later, Cora will shy away from such predictions, but he's pleased with where Devers is at mentally and physically.
"He made a commitment," said Cora. "He hired a personal trainer and nutritionist. He's into it right away. He's only 22. He's learning. Eating habits. Working out, all that stuff.
"And we've been in contact with him constantly, and I do feel that those at-bats in October, that can translate over 162 games. He was able to slow down. Whatever he found with his rehab assignment, he kept it moving forward for him.
"Last year, I say, what, .280, 30 [homers] and 100 [RBIs]? This year, I'll say he's going to be a good hitter, and we go from here."
Planning on Pedey: The Red Sox have been honest when it comes to Dustin Pedroia, saying that they can't really bank on his return from a problematic left knee injury until he resumes running in January. But Cora expressed confidence that his former teammate will make a comeback that many skeptics aren't expecting.
"Pedey? I'm not going to bet against him. We've been in touch," said Cora. "He's a huge part of this organization. What he did last year, think about it, man. Like, he didn't play, but he was there. He was there for them the whole time. And there were a lot of conversations in the cage, in the dugout, in the clubhouse. He was a part of it."
Catch 2: Cora is on the same page as president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski when it comes to the catching situation. While the Red Sox were able to win it all with three catchers on their roster through most of last year and into the postseason, the goal is to get down to two for 2019.
That means someone from the trio of Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart is likely to be traded.
"It looked simple last year, but it wasn't," Cora said of the three-catcher arrangement. "I mean, Blake didn't have at-bats. He worked out perfectly because Christian gets hurt [in July] and he starts playing. But as far as the roster and where we're at and pitching, in a perfect world, you have two catchers. And we had three good ones. They're good.
"Defensively, you can see Blake, the strides he made, blocking pitches, taking ownership of the scouting report and calling games. Christian, September, October, that's the guy we wanted from the get-go. He was outstanding. And obviously Sandy -- although offensively he wasn't great, but defensively he was amazing.
"So we'll see what happens. Obviously you heard it, [Dombrowski] isn't going to just give them away. There's some value in catching in the industry. Last year, the Astros traded for Martin Maldonado for a reason, because of Cleveland and us. So we'll see what happens. And if it doesn't happen in the offseason, we'll go into Spring Training and we'll take care of them. And then whatever they decide, we'll do."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.