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October 5, 2018

Alex Cora

Boston, Massachusetts - pregame 1

THE MODERATOR: All right. Good afternoon, everybody. We'll get started with Alex. If you have a question we'll get the mic.

Q. Alex, tell us about your lineup tonight, especially Pearce against the Yankee pitcher.
ALEX CORA: I think if I don't start with Pearce, I might get fired. He has had good at-bats with him. He hits the ball out of the ballpark. That's the reason we got him. He's been putting in quality at-bats, even before he got traded, with the Blue Jays. Not only against lefties, but also against righties. He's been successful against Happ.

We hit him third. See if he can get a few at-bats off him. Look for a pitch in the middle of the zone, hit it in the air, and hopefully he can hit it out of the ballpark.

Q. Alex, two-part question: Are you nervous? And secondly, you've had a lot of experience in the postseason as a player and most recently as a bench coach. How did they shape you moving forward to this series as a manager in your rookie season?
ALEX CORA: I was saying earlier, last night was a little different. For some reason I kept looking at video and video and video. We played them 19 times, you know? They played the A's. It was the same team we faced over the weekend.

But today was normal in the house. The kids were playing around since 7:30. So that kind of like helps. I've been saying all along, it's just a game. It's just a game. You come here and you work. But at the same time when it's over or before you get here to the ballpark, you have to take care of your family. That's what I did.

As far as being a bench coach and player, it helps because of the routine. You understand that the days are going to be a little bit different. Although today is back to normal for us. Seems like we've been here two weeks, and it's been a different routine every day. Finally it's a night game. We come here at noon or 1:00, whenever we show up, and go through your progression and be able for it at 7:00.

Last year it really helped me. Just to be around that organization. Being around A.J. The difference is I'm here now, and I'm going to be here after the game. So I have to talk about the game. But besides that from 7:00 till hopefully 10:00 (laughter), we know that's not going to happen, but it's business as usual. Pay attention to the game. Take advantage of certain things. Make the moves. Have everybody ready and hopefully come out on top.

Q. Alex, from your previous postseason experiences, how much do you believe in the idea of a team peaking at the right time? And do you think you guys are peaking right now?
ALEX CORA: We are healthy, that's the most important thing. We're rested. That's one of the topics throughout the season, to give these guys enough rest that when October started, we were right where we want to be.

You saw some flashes throughout the last few weeks. We knew where we were in the standings, and the division and everything. So we took advantage of the schedule. But there were a few games that we showed up, and I feel that whenever we kind of like challenged the guys, hey, let's start a game and finish it. You don't want the feeling of just going through the motions, we were okay.

They have been talking to them in the workouts, they are looking forward to it. Everybody has been talking about this since last year, when the Red Sox lost to the Astros. They wanted to go back. We have a chance now. And hopefully we can perform.

Q. What went into the decision for Kelly and Workman instead of Hembree?
ALEX CORA: Kelly and Workman? The way it went with Heater (Hembree) throughout the season with traffic, he was doing a good job throughout the season, but towards the end it didn't work out. Actually he wasn't keeping the ball in the ballpark, which is the number one goal against these guys. You have to keep the ball in the ballpark. And he struggled with his slider, his off-speed pitches, and he paid the price.

We do feel that Joe is trending up. His velocity is still up there. It's still 100. His change-up is getting better. His slider is getting better. Workman, the combination of fastball and curveball, it fits what we're trying to accomplish against them.

Q. Alex, there's been so much talk about Chris Sale over the last few weeks. In the very early going for you, is there anything you're looking at that will let you rest easier, whether it's the stride, we were talking about the velocity. Is there one thing you're looking for in the beginning?
ALEX CORA: Outs. Outs. Outs. That's the most important thing. We had cut in velocity because halfway through the season what we saw was unreal. He was 99 from the get-go. But his first few starts in April early May he was throwing 94, 95. He wasn't 99. He was still dominant.

So you still have to execute regardless of the velocity. We saw it last year. Last year he was throwing 98, 99 in Game 1. He made some mistakes and they took advantage of it. I think the most important thing is outs. This is a team you have to mix it up. It's not, "He can throw 99," that doesn't guarantee you're going to get him outs. He still has to pitch.

As long as he's getting outs up there I'm fine with it.

Q. David Price is going to speak after you. Did you feel the urge to meet with him and not to put too much pressure on himself with his first game as a starter in the postseason, and how do you feel about that?
ALEX CORA: No. I'm treating the guys the same way I treat them in the regular season. That's a guy I trust. We saw him pitching the second part of the season. He was probably the second best lefty in the league after Snell. The way he went about his business, he pitched against the Yankees, he pitched against the Astros, he pitched against the Indians; he did a good job.

So I don't feel I have to talk to him. He's ready. He's ready for the challenge. And I'm looking forward to see him pitch tomorrow.

Q. Alex, just a thought on facing J.A. Happ? And also your thoughts on Bill Belichick ending his post-game presser last night, wishing the Red Sox good luck and he'll be watching?
ALEX CORA: Was he intense? That's awesome. That's cool.

I mean, like I've been saying all along, to play sports and follow sports in this city at this time is unreal. The Patriots and the Bruins and Celtics and us. What we've been doing the last few years, it's fun.

I'm humble because he's paying attention. He was here at one of the games. He was there with Tony and Dave. He knows what's going on, which is cool. I have the utmost respect for him. He's one of the best, if not the greatest. And for him to pay attention is cool. I know the guys like that.

What was the other one?

Q. Happ.
ALEX CORA: Happ? Whew, he's good, man. He's been consistent since 2008 when he got called up. It looks simple but it's tough. He throws that fastball up in the zone on the edge. And if you're not disciplined enough you're going to chase it. All of a sudden he's up there in the fifth inning with only 70 pitches.

So you have to be very disciplined. You have to do that. Try to lay off that fastball up. Get him in the middle of the plate. When you get him, don't miss it. .

Q. Alex, you've stressed over and over again how important it is to keep the Yankees in the ballpark. You talked about the heat maps yesterday. For a team that's hit 267 home runs, how perfect does the execution have to be and do you need some luck there, too, where the mistakes don't get hit?
ALEX CORA: That's what they do. I mean, they hit the ball out of the ballpark to the pull side, the other way. We just have to be good. I think in the playoffs it's about executing. You execute pitches, you get people out. Also in the batter's box it's about slowing it down. Don't chase pitches.

You start watching the games, you know, and what pitchers are doing in the Wild Card game and in the play-in game, pitching it seems like there's a switch. You see them. They start executing pitches. At the same time hitters kind of chase. So hopefully we can execute, they can chase and also, if we make a mistake, that they just pop it up and miss it.

Q. I know your focus is on this series straight ahead, but in a new role like this, I'm sure it gave you a new appreciation for A.J. and Tito. Did anything pop into your mind for lessons that you weren't necessarily as a player focused on in that time? Anything pop in your mind from prior managers you worked for and played for?
ALEX CORA: I always said that Tito, the way he handled this, he's the best. I mean, the way he says a lot and doesn't say anything, it's amazing. That always -- I mean, he's unreal. I used to listen to him last year, even this year, I'm like, "He ain't saying anything." Whatever. But he's great.

I was watching the game earlier. Whatever is going on, how calm he is in the dugout is very important. He did that with us in '07. For whatever they talk about '04, but in '07 we were down 3-1 against Cleveland playing over there. He didn't change.

With A.J., he's great at saying a lot and then giving you a lot of information after the games, which is great. He's awesome. He's great with the media. He's great with the players. Actually, we've been talking a lot the last few days. Just being around him last year, not only him, that organization, really prepared me for this.

But those two guys, they are different, very different. One is sharp, you know, and the other one is Tito (Laughter).

And in their way they are great. I learned from them.

Q. Kind of a follow-up: What did you learn last year from A.J. in the postseason about handling the pitching staff, especially when you manage by the numbers, and when you kind of go with your gut?
ALEX CORA: That not always plan A works. For everything that we talk about McCullers and Morton, the plan going into the playoffs was Devenski, Giles and Harris. Didn't work out. We needed to make adjustments. We started here with Verlander. People forget it actually didn't work when he came in. Beni hit a home run off him. And then all of a sudden McCullers was rested for Game 7 in the ALCS and we went with him. And Morton was rested in Game 7 in the World Series. We went with him. You have to make adjustments. It's a 25-man roster. It's going to get to a point that in one game, you will need all of them.

I think Luke Gregerson got only one out in the World Series last year. If I ask you guys which game it was, I'll bet nobody remembers. It was Game 5, that crazy game, in the World Series. He got an out in the third inning, and then after that we scored like five or six runs. He gave us a chance to win.

So just be prepared to make adjustments throughout. That's the most important thing.

Q. Alex, we're going to do this in Spanish and English for the benefit of all.
ALEX CORA: That's great.

Q. What did Joey tell you before this series? What was his best advice?
ALEX CORA: Honestly, he stays away from the baseball side of it with me. He doesn't want to get involved or put thoughts in my mind. He's just here as a fan to cheer his brother to be a big league manager. And that's the cool thing about it. Hopefully he has good tickets and he enjoys it.

If I have a question, I'll ask him, but he stays away from it. He respects this. He understands that. Like that's the reason when I got the job, the first thing he did, he called me and was like, "Hey, don't even think about it. I'm staying here with the Pirates." Because he wanted his little brother just to be himself and do the things his way. I think it was going to be like the older brother, younger brother, this is the way you do it. He wanted to stay away from that.

Q. When you say of David, "He's ready, he's ready for this," what are your favorite parts about his personality or the mental make-up, not the stuff, that lets you able to say that he's ready for this?
ALEX CORA: After the game in New York whenever it was, when he gave up all the home runs, in the summer, whenever, he said it. He said that, "Hey, I need to make adjustments." The next start against Kansas City you can see that he was making them, but it didn't work out. He hit a few guys in the fifth inning, if I'm not mistaken, like two or three. Command wasn't there. He started to pitch up in the zone. And then the next start kind of like everything changed.

This guy, I mean, he's been one of the best pitchers in the Big Leagues for a long, long time. We get caught up in the numbers and the playoffs and all that. I still remember he pitched Game 163 in Texas, and he threw a complete game. I still remember a game a few years ago in Kansas City in the fifth or six inning he was rolling. They hit a pop-up in Gomes and Bautista and the ball dropped. After that there were a few seeing-eye singles and he lost the game.

For him it's about health. He's healthy. He prepares. You see the same guy on the mound. But a different game plan going into games. And I do feel that he's ready for this one. He's faced them twice since he made some adjustments. He beat them once here -- no, actually, he gave up two in seven innings I think it was. And then the last game in New York Voit hit the home runs to right field.

We feel he's in a good place mentally and physically. We have to wait and see.

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