BOSTON -- While Alex Cora's managerial tendencies and strategies won't truly be known until the 2018 season starts, the rookie manager of the Red Sox provided some glimpses of his beliefs in Monday's introductory news conference.
Here is a sampling.
Offensive approach will be to hunt
Despite winning the American League East for the second straight season, the Red Sox were a disappointment on offense in 2017. Cora has some thoughts how that can change.
"Offensively, everybody loves the homers -- we get it," said Cora. "But I think the key of the offense is to have a consistent approach, hunting pitches you can do damage with. First pitch or a 2-0 pitch. Sometimes a first pitch available is the one you can do damage on, so we're going to have guys ready to do damage early in the count, regardless.
"Being ready to hit it. If it's not where you want it, just take it. These guys on the mound, they're tough, they're different now, everyone's throwing 97, 98 [mph], everybody goes up in the zone 0-2. We've got guys throughout the league that chase pitches, so we want guys to be ready to hit and do damage. That's the most important thing."
While there's bound to be a lot of focus in the coming weeks on potential free-agent and trade acquisitions, Cora sees plenty of potential for growth from within as well.
"I expect Xander Bogaerts to be a better player. Mookie Betts, he had a great season, but I expect him [to be better]," Cora said. "These guys are going to take a step forward. We're going to preach them to be aggressive. Not everybody has to take pitches. I get it. Work the count. But is it worth it to work the count now? Guys are throwing 98, 99. So you hunt for a pitch available and you do damage with it. That's going to help us out."
Analytics to be used, but not overused
One of the reasons the Red Sox were drawn to Cora is because of his comfort with analytics, which have become a bigger part of the game than ever over the last year or two. Cora's experience as bench coach for the analytics-inclined Astros helps in that regard. But Cora vows not to overuse the numbers.
"[Astros manager] A.J. Hinch and his staff did an outstanding job of recognizing that. The most important thing about the whole analytical world and the coaches, there has to be a connection and we have to understand that there's a lot of money we're investing in the analytical department," said Cora. "When they invest money in this, as coaches, you have to embrace the information. And then you have to filter this information and give it to the players. At the end of the day, you know who wins games? The players.
"People have the wrong idea about the Houston Astros," said Cora. "Yeah, they do an outstanding job with the numbers and they give them a lot of information, but there's a balance, too. At the end of the day, you have to recognize who's doing a good job. Who's in a good situation in the clubhouse? Who's ready to play?"
Cora used the example of Hinch allowing Charlie Morton to pitch the final four innings of Game 7 of the World Series -- even though the pregame plan was to turn to Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander in the late innings.
"So we'll create a balance," said Cora. "We're going to have a connection with them and we're going to use the information. There's going to be different formations, probably, defensively. We're going help this infield to be better. The outfield, they're amazing defensively, so we don't have to make too many adjustments, but there are going to be certain adjustments that come from upstairs that are going to make this team better."
Blending the clubhouse
A big part of being a manager is to have a clubhouse with sound leadership and chemistry. The Red Sox took some criticism in this regard last year, particularly in the fallout of lefty David Price yelling at Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley on a team flight.
As a player, Cora was known for his ability to be a positive influence in the clubhouse, and he thinks that skill will also help him as a manager.
"Too close to players? That doesn't exist," Cora said. "The whole thing about drawing the line [between the manager and players], they understand that, but at the same time they're human beings, man, and you've got to talk to them, you've got to see how they feel. I'm going to encourage my coaching staff to get close to players. Alex Bregman, for example. We're cool. He probably thinks I'm his older brother and I probably think the same way.
"But at the time to push him, I was able to push him because you have a good relationship and they understand that, 'Hey he's not doing it just to get on me, he's doing it because he wants me to get better.' And that's what happened over there and I'm going to bring it over here."
Mentors? He's had a few
Not only did Cora absorb positive lessons from Hinch in his one season as Astros bench coach, but also from many of the managers he played for throughout the years. Cora will take the best of what he learned from his favorite managers and apply it to the Red Sox.
"In the situation I was as a baseball player, I was a utility guy," Cora said. "I was managed by a lot of good ones -- Davey Johnson, Jim Tracy, Tito Francona, Jerry Manuel. When you're a utility guy, you have to pay attention to the game, you really do. I think I'm prepared.
"I learned a lot this year from A.J. Hinch. People don't given him too much credit sometimes. I feel this guy is a superstar. He's a star. To be right there with him, we had good times, we had bad times and we had horrible times. But at the end of the day, we have a ring. We learned a lot."
It was interesting to hear Cora reflect on which manager he learned the most from.
"Well, honestly, the guy that really taught me how to see the game different was Sandy Alomar Sr. He was my manager in winter ball in 2000 and he was a guy that -- obviously two talented kids in that family, Robbie and Sandy, so he knew what he was talking about," Cora said. "This is what shocked me. He said, 'The scoreboard is not for the fans. The scoreboard is for the players,' and I'm like, 'What are you talking about?' He's like, 'The scoreboard is going to dictate the way you're going to play the game. Tie game, up one, up two, the outs, the innings,' -- that's what he meant. So I started watching that and started taking it into my game."