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October 4, 2018

Alex Cora

Boston, Massachusetts - Workout Day

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with Alex.

Q. How much are you looking forward to playing the Yankees in this series?
ALEX CORA: I was looking forward to the playoffs, regardless who we played. I've been lucky enough throughout my sporting life to play in rivalries: Miami-FSU, Miami-UF, Dodgers-Giants, here. Astros-Rangers? (Laughter). I guess. The Golden Boot or whatever it is.

It's fun. It's fun. One thing for sure, we lived it through the offseason, when I was hired here, then Boonie got hired over there. They did their move with the big trade with the Marlins. Then we signed our guys.

I think as far as the fan bases, they were looking forward to this. It should be fun.

I got a taste last year with them. One thing for sure, man, that stadium it was loud. It was fun to play there. It should be fun here. It should be fun playing at Yankee Stadium. And we're ready to go.

Q. Alex, obviously there's not a lot of secrets between you two teams. When you look back at the most recent series, is there anything that you take out of that going into this one?
ALEX CORA: No, we were dying to turn the page. It felt awkward playing them here, the last one, because we already clinched everything. It was just about staying healthy and getting your repetitions and move on.

They are playing great. They swung the bats well. You know how I feel about them, keeping the ball in the ballpark. They've been hitting the ball out of the ballpark for a while. We didn't get too much out of it as far as information. We play these guys so much, we're pretty familiar with what they do. The same with us. Probably Boonie feels the same way.

There's no secrets, I think. At the end of the day, I know it sounds boring, whatever, whoever plays better defense and executes better pitches and gets clutch hits is going to win the series.

Q. Chris was just here and he said, "I'm scheduled to cover 100 pitches." Is that how you feel about it?
ALEX CORA: Yeah. We've been talking about him two innings and 40 pitches, and four innings and 60 and then six and 100. Now he's a full go. Just go out there and perform. He's in a good place. He's ready to roll. I think he's very excited to start Game 1, and we're excited, too.

Q. Alex, obviously the postseason has become so bullpen-dominated. Would you like to see that reversed with your guys? Would you like to see them go deep in the games? Is that the goal?
ALEX CORA: Yeah, I mean, we work differently than other teams. We relied on our starters throughout the season. They carry us. We felt that on a nightly basis they were going to give us a chance to win, either five innings, six innings, whatever. They were very consistent about it.

I don't think it's going to change. Obviously we have to wait and see as far as how the game goes, where we are at at the bullpen, where we're at in the lineup. I do believe we're going to rely on them.

Q. Alex, just a kind of a reflection on that first team dinner that you had before the opener in Tampa, and what last night was like for you and your team as you get ready for this series.
ALEX CORA: It was cool when you have all the big leaguers watching a baseball game. From the home run in the first inning and all -- everybody was like, "Whoa!" He crushed that ball, by the way, to look at a few things. It's different when you are sitting there and you have all the guys and you can point out a few things.

But it was fun. It was very relaxing. It was great to be around. Tony was there. So he had a lot of stories. It's Tony's birthday today. La Russa. It was great. They were very relaxed.

It was cool, because the people around kind of like recognize them. There's a lot of people in this town that they are very proud of them. And for them to be walking around the restaurant, that was a cool scene.

Hopefully we can do it a few more times in October, get together.

Q. Alex, last two seasons, obviously you weren't here, but the team lost in the first round. Any feeling, any discussion, anything about this team that makes you confident that's behind them, there's no lingering effects from their past playoff experience?
ALEX CORA: No. Talking about experience, I went through it last year with Altuve. Going into the playoff series he struggled against Kansas City. So he was very anxious, and just eager to get going. We talked to him a little bit, "Hey, man, slow it down. You don't have to carry this offense." Boom, Game 1 happened.

These guys we've been talking about it the whole season. The whole season. And for me personally since I got the job it was like move on. I respect John. He was my pitching coach in '07. He did some great things here. But I was hired, so.

I never look back. They are good players. They are very talented. But if you start looking back, you're going to start thinking about bad things or bad playoffs or bad series. Since November 3rd -- was it 3rd, whatever, it was like, look forward. It's a position we were looking to be in.

Just being around those guys, they haven't talked about Cleveland or the Astros. I remind them sometimes, you know. I don't think that's bad.

They are in a good place. They are in a good place. Even yesterday in practice, it was different. A lot of guys wanted live BP. You don't see that often. People wanted to be in the ballpark early. They are in a good place.

Q. Alex, I was looking at the lineups, the last time these two teams played in the playoffs, it was Game 7 of '04. The majority of the players were 30-something. Tomorrow night I think the majority will probably be 20-something or much younger on the average. What do you attribute that to in the way the game is going or the way the two organization developed their rosters?
ALEX CORA: That baseball is in a great place. I think when you play the Indians and you play the Astros and you play the Yankees, there's a lot of talent out there, a lot of athletes. It's fun. It's fun. Guys that can take over games. And it's hard in baseball because you only get four chances probably at the plate. Those guys they do it at the plate, they run the bases, they play good defense. And I think it's just watching games, it's pretty exciting.

I know people talk about pace of play and all that, but at the end from now on people don't care. Four hours, four and a half hours, it doesn't matter. Because there's a lot of talent out there.

As far as the organizations, they could things differently than us. But at the end we rely on our young athletes. You start looking around and you have Beni and Xander. Xander just turned 26. I was like, "Wow, just 26. Good for you. That's awesome." (Laughter). I think Mookie turns, what, 26, too on Sunday. So it's amazing. It's amazing. I look at these guys and I hate to say, but it's a good brand of baseball as far as athletes. It's fun to watch.

Q. Alex, you talked about being with the Astros last year and beating the Yankees. Understanding it's a different team, a different year, is there anything you can draw from that experience that you can apply?
ALEX CORA: Yes. We're very athletic, just like the Astros. There's a few things we do very similar to them. Obviously at the end you still have to pitch and do things. They've got a different manager, too. So they probably do a few things differently.

But, yeah, I do feel that that experience is going to help me out in a few things, a few decisions. A few things we're going to do offensively.

Q. Alex, J.A. Happ has done very well over his career in this ballpark, which not a lot of left-handers do. What do you think led to that success for him?
ALEX CORA: I mean, he relies on his fastball and his pitches to the edges of the strike zone. We scored four the last inning we played against him; let's use that.

He's been consistent throughout his career. He got to the Big Leagues in '08, I want to say, with the Phillies. He has postseason experience. He's solid. It seems like he repeats his delivery. He doesn't shy away from his game plan, regardless if he's getting hit or not. You're going to get fastballs up and in against righties and he's going to expand down and away with his breaking stuff with his off-speed pitches. He's had a great career.

He's made some adjustments, too. When he went to Pittsburgh he was a heavy sinker guy. All of a sudden he's pitching up in the zone and he's a good one, really a good one.

Q. How important is it for left-handed pitchers to be able to pitch in in this ballpark?
ALEX CORA: Sometimes guys come here and they see that wall and they become pull-happy. So you don't want them to extend. You know, look for pitches outer third and hook the ball to the wall. So you have to establish in. It's very important. Just like in New York, too. Kind of like you have to pitch inside because pitches outer third or away, you can flip to right field and it's a home run. It works the same way.

Q. You obviously weren't here for '03 and '04, from your playing time here, what were your favorite memories of the Yankees rivalry?
ALEX CORA: I got a hit on Mariano in the eighth inning on a Friday game, RBI hit. That was cool. And then -- oh, and the game in New York. Tito he offered the players a gift if you have four RBIs. The first at-bat I hit a homer, I had two RBIs there. And then there was a man at second two outs in the eighth, I hit a fly ball. And Tito was on the bench trying to pull that ball back. It hit the fence. It was a triple, I only had one RBI instead of four. But the Mariano game, that one, Mariano Rivera.

Q. Alex, just a two-part question: One, on how close are you to your roster and will Eovaldi start Game 4? And also you might have been asked the question earlier, but what has it been like the reaction from Puerto Rico?
ALEX CORA: With the roster, we will announce it tomorrow. We're very close to deciding where we going to. We have to talk to the players about it. Nate is scheduled to start Game 4.

And as far as Puerto Rico, I mean, there's a lot of people flying tomorrow. So it should be fun. There's a lot of, "I'm a Yankee fan but we're pulling for you." Which I don't believe. But they are very proud. I mean, I got text messages from a lot of people, a lot of important people back home.

They'll be watching. They'll be watching. Like I've been saying, I know they are proud of me but I'm proud of them. What they've done as a country, what we've done to put ourselves on the map again, and not to think about Maria and everything that went on last year. It's a huge accomplishment. And, hey, I'm here. They are going to be watching. I'm glad they are going to be paying attention to what's going to happen in the next few days.

Q. Can you talk about the Yankees. What will be the key of defeating them in Boston?
ALEX CORA: We have to keep them in the ballpark. That's the most important thing. I think they from top to bottom they can hit the ball out of the ballpark. It's a tough lineup. Like I've been saying, there's heat maps. There's red and there's blue. We have to pitch to blue. If we do that, we're going to be in good shape.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Alex.

ALEX CORA: Have a good one.

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