NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Alex Cora doesn’t have a contract beyond next season and that’s probably how it should be, right? Consecutive last-place finishes in the American League East don’t buy a lot of job security.
Chaim Bloom paid the price for all those losses but Cora wasn’t an innocent bystander. For too long, the Red Sox have been an inconsistent team prone to mental errors.
That reflects on the manager, and now Cora is in the position of having to prove himself to new chief baseball officer Craig Breslow.
“I understand how it works,” Cora said Tuesday. “I know this is something we’re doing to discuss. We’re going to talk [in] time. From my end, not being selfish, I think the most important thing right now is to make this team better.”
That’s largely contingent on Breslow improving the roster. But Cora can influence that process by coaching up the returning players.
Cora has been on the road quite a bit since the season ended. He visited Rafael Devers in the Dominican Republic and stopped by Fort Myers to have dinner with Chris Sale, Kutter Crawford, Connor Wong, and other players working out there.
Tristan Casas wasn’t in the workout but showed up at the restaurant and “demolished” a Tomahawk steak according to Cora.
Cora and several coaches will go back to the Dominican Republic next week to visit the team’s academy in El Toro and check in with Devers, Wilyer Abreu, Brayan Bello, Ceddanne Rafaela, Pablo Reyes, and Enmanuel Valdez.
Trevor Story will host a workout group for infielders, Casas among them, near his home in Texas in early January. Cora plans to stop by and take in a Dallas Mavericks game with the group.
“Sometimes the word ‘culture’ is overused,” Cora said. “We just want everybody together in the same place and work and keep getting better.”
Meanwhile Masataka Yoshida was sent back to Japan with a detailed plan to get stronger before his second season. Two of the team’s Japanese-speaking staffers have visited Yoshida to monitor his progress.
That’s all a good start. But spring training will offer a better sense of how committed the Sox really are to changing what hasn’t worked.
Cora said the Sox would adjust their routine to include more work on the stadium field. The plan is to run defensive drills at game speed to improve decisions made on the fly. Some speedy minor leaguers will be brought over to make the work as realistic as possible.
Sox outfielders have been notorious for throwing to the wrong base in recent years, something other teams happily exploited. Fixing those fundamental flaws will be a priority.
The Sox also will engage in team-building activities during spring training, a recent trend in the game that they have generally ignored. That could be a group outing to Top Golf, a bowling alley, or an escape room. The idea is to build chemistry away from the field before the season.
“We’re going to compete the whole time,” Cora said. “I think that’s something we haven’t been great the last two years about.”
By competition, Cora doesn’t mean prioritizing winning Grapefruit League games. It’s treating the day-to-day work meaningfully and developing players, not just getting them reps ahead of the season. There will be more intensity and game-like situations.
“Competition and accountability and pushing each other brings out the best in all of us,” Breslow said “I would say that’s not exclusive to what happens on the field. That’s what we should demand of our coaching staff and ourselves.”
Breslow, who played 12 seasons in the majors, said his most productive spring trainings were ones that were carefully planned out.
“I had a pitching coach and a strength coach and a trainer who understood what I was trying to accomplish over the six weeks that I needed to ramp for a season,” he said.
Cora was at a career crossroads in 2020 when he was suspended by the league for his role in Houston’s cheating scandal, then fired by the Sox. He convinced the team to bring him back and the Sox went to the American League Championship Series in 2021.
Now, in a different way, Cora has been humbled once more and he again has to prove himself worthy of the job.