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October 12, 2018

Alex Cora

Boston, Massachusetts - Workout Day

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

Q. How much of an advantage do you have being with them last year?
ALEX CORA: None. I mean, it's a different team. They made some additions in the offseason. And they're playing differently. And like I said yesterday, there's too much to talk about A.J. and me and having an advantage at the end, I don't catch a ground ball. I don't hit. A.J. doesn't catch anymore. It's about the players and they're the ones that are going to decide what's going to happen on the field.

Q. Just a thought on what you saw from Chris coming out of the bullpen, but also what you expect from him in Game 1?
ALEX CORA: He was really good. Like I said, we have to be patient and wait for the perfect scenario. And that was the perfect scenario -- three-run lead in the eighth. You go Sale, Kimbrel and you take your chances, and hopefully they don't score four before we get the sixth out.

Under control, I do feel that the experience coming out of the bullpen in Game 4 in the division series helped him out. That was my biggest worry. Actually, I forgot that he came in in relief against the Astros last year.

But he was good, good fastball, good off-speed pitches. He didn't get caught up in the moment. Actually, he really enjoyed it. You could tell. And I don't want to say it was the bullpen, because it's a lot different, you know? But as far as usage, it was perfect. Not too many pitches, very efficient. And now he's ready.

As far as tomorrow, Houston is another good start. As you guys know, we rely on our starters, the same way they do. So six innings and give us a chance to win and then go to the bullpen.

Q. Yesterday you said you were learning towards the same roster, 11 pitchers. Anything change on that front, did you consider anything?
ALEX CORA: No, we were waiting for the workout. As you guys know, we have to see how Mitch is. He's going to hit, going run the bases, gonna take ground balls. And we'll decide what we're going to do with him.

And everything will be decided around that. So we have to wait for the workout.

Q. Did you learn anything about Verlander being alongside him last year for the two months that you didn't know before?
ALEX CORA: Not really. No, I learned a lot. He loves to compete, which is the most important thing at this level. He got traded and he found different ways to get people out. And he did a great job with the Astros. From day one when he got there he threw that bullpen in the middle of the doubleheader against the Mets on a Saturday after Harvey, he was into it.

And he brought a different vibe to the team. Everybody knows how Dallas felt after the trading deadline. And Jeff was very patient with the trade market and everything that was going on.

And I still remember that day, August 31st, which it was my first big league managing game, because A.J. got thrown out in the first inning. Like in the fourth inning, and nothing against Cam Maybin, he was great. I think he got tacos for the country because he stole second in the World Series. Somebody comes down and goes, we got Cam Maybin. Okay, yep.

And then we got home. And I think it was -- it has to be 10:40 Central Time, people started texting and calling, and there was rumors that we were going to get JV. And then Dallas was the one that told me. He was, like, "We got him." And it was a different vibe. He dominated from the first pitch all the way to Game 6, I think he pitched, in the World Series. Professional. A guy that pays attention to details.

He's one of the best. Future Hall of Famer. And it was cool to be around him last year.

Q. Is he the best guy you've seen in your time in the Major Leagues?
ALEX CORA: In a stretch like that? Beckett in 2007, Josh was better in '07. And I know it's hard to believe, but what Josh did here in '07, that was amazing.

Q. I think more the totality of his career.
ALEX CORA: Yeah, I mean, you start looking at the numbers and the wins and the strikeouts. Now he's become a postseason poster child. It wasn't that way earlier in his career. But now he's the guy. And like I said, I was very proud of him last year, proud of what he's done this year.

I consider him my friend. And hopefully he struggles the rest of October. (Laughter).

Q. Yesterday you were talking about Bregman like Pedroia, will use anything for motivation, for fuel. You guys played New York-New York after you won. How, in your experience as a player and teammate and manager, how powerful of a motivational tool is holding a grudge or having a chip on your shoulder?
ALEX CORA: I don't know. There's been a few things in the playoffs that I lived through it. Cleveland decided to bring Beckett's ex-girlfriend in Game 5, I think it was. That didn't work out. (Laughter) And I don't know about the song. But that's for the players to talk about. I know they had a great time after we clinched to play the music.

I don't know. It was funny. But I think at the end if you need motivation at this time, you're playing the wrong sport.

You've got a chance to win four games and go to the World Series and win eight games and get a ring and, like I joked with them, but it's true, that check in December is a good one. You know? (Laughter).

So it's what you play for. It's what you play for. Your offseason workouts and then Spring Training and then 162 games and you put yourself in a situation that you either win 11 games in October or 12 games in October and you can say that you play for the best team in baseball. That's the only motivation you need. And our guys are locked in with that. They understand that.

Q. Can you talk a little bit more about Chris Sale in the sense that it seems like the moment doesn't get too big for him. Seems like he embraces the moment. Do you agree with that? And do you feel like he's ready for this moment?
ALEX CORA: He's been ready. Game 1 last year in the division series, it wasn't a good one for him. And instead of taking it as a negative, he learned from it.

And then he came here in Game 4 for three innings and he dominated. One changeup that Alex was out in front, hit out of the ballpark, but he did an outstanding job in that game. And I know he was very excited to get the ball for the first game in the division series against New York.

He was more than excited to come in relief. He told me three days in a row, hey, I'm coming in, I'm coming in. And now he's excited to have a second chance against the Houston Astros.

Q. Just piggybacking off what Johnny asked you, the personnel may be different as far as the Astros are concerned this time around, but have you seen a difference in philosophy or how they approach certain game situations that may not have been the case when you were bench coach?
ALEX CORA: You study them and you try to pick a few things from them. When healthy, they can do a lot of things. They hit the ball out of the ballpark. They put double in play. They run the bases.

I think their biggest improvement is their defense. They're a lot better defensively. Correa has played at a high level at shortstop. Altuve, he's been better at turning double plays. In the outfield, they are very aggressive with their positioning, and it works.

Seems like they've been more aggressive this year compared to last year. They have different ways to beat you. They've got different personnel. They came here early September, and Marisnick defensively changed probably two games, the first two games of the series, playing defense. Was Jake here on the roster for that one? I know he played good against us. Bregman, at third base, his range. And he's a shortstop playing third base.

And the biggest difference, I do believe they made an adjustment because of who they were thinking they were going to play in October, is Martin Maldonado. I didn't see that coming knowing that Brian was going to be healthy and Stassi was playing great.

But that's what they do. They think ahead and you've got the Indians leading the league in stolen bases. You've got us playing the way we're playing. So they decided to go to one of the best defensive catchers in the league, and he's been outstanding. And that's the difference.

I think their defense is underrated and it's probably one of the best in the Big Leagues.

Q. What did the bullpen show you last round? And kind of how much more settled does that kind of feel now going into this round?
ALEX CORA: Show me or show you guys?

Q. Both.
ALEX CORA: I was always comfortable with the bullpen. I knew we were going to have guys coming in in situations that they didn't pitch in the regular season.

I knew that in September we had a plan and we were staying away from certain guys in certain situations. I knew that Barnsy was hurt and he's one of the best relievers in the Big Leagues. And I knew coming into October we were going to be fine.

Q. Earlier J.D. was talking about his time in Houston and said that's where he learned to fail and then he learned to work. Just wondering, how do you characterize his work ethic that you've seen this season?
ALEX CORA: Do we have time? It's amazing. We go back to a meeting in Orlando when we met with Scott and J.D. And the way he talked about his routine, the way he talked about preparation and iPads and Notebooks and visualizing and being ready from pitch one in batting practice until the last pitch of the game.

I was impressed. And he's been consistent with it. He doesn't stop. He's always trying to find an edge. He always -- he's working with his swing. Even when -- he won player of the month in August, I think it was. And when we told him, he's like "For real?" And I'm like, yeah, you were the best player in August. He was like -- he didn't feel that way because he wasn't hitting the ball in the air. And that's who he is. He's always trying to be better.

And it's been great. I think his biggest strength as a player is communicating with his teammates and using that information for his teammates and trying for them to be better, which is awesome. You don't see that often.

Sometimes star players, they stay in their corner. They're so into their craft that they don't share information. Not on purpose, but that's the way it works for them. And with him it's the other way around. If it's up to J.D., he'll talk hitting to you the whole day and probably make you a good hitter.

Q. I don't know about that.
ALEX CORA: Yeah, but that's the great thing about him.

Q. Everybody knows how much David Price really wants to win so badly in the postseason. If you had the sense that he's trying too hard, pressing too much, squeezing the ball too much or anything like that, is there anything that you would say to him to try to relax and make it a little easier, or do you think that's not the issue at all?
ALEX CORA: I don't think that's the issue. I do feel that there's a few things that he got away from the last few starts. And we do feel that in Game 2 he'll get back to attack hitters in a certain way.

That's the beauty of David. He can attack you in different ways but sometimes everything blends together, not only velocity-wise but location-wise. And Big League hitters take advantage of that. But we do feel that he'll get back to that guy that pitched from the All-Star break all the way until mid-September and he'll be fine.

Q. What makes Altuve a dynamite player?
ALEX CORA: That he can hit a pitch up there and down there, like he's amazing at getting the bat to the ball. He can hit with power, but at the same time he'll put the ball in play with two strikes. He doesn't hit it hard, but he's so fast it's an infield single. He goes the other way when he wants, he doesn't expand.

And he's a complete player. Just like J.D., he wants to be great. And that's impressive. For a guy that, I think he signed for $1,500, and now he's one of the best players in the Big Leagues. It's amazing. It's an amazing story. On a daily basis he brings it. There's no off days for him. Mentally or physically, he'll give you everything he has.

Q. Knowing Chris as you know him, how much do you think what happened in the postseason last year is a motivation for him. And in general, how he looks at succeeding in the postseason as kind of maybe the final piece of his individual puzzle?
ALEX CORA: I don't know if it's motivation. I think he uses it the other way around, like as a learning experience. I heard that in that game he went to the bullpen and it took him 10 or 12 pitches to be ready, because he was so hyped up. He was ready to go.

Like I've been telling you guys since the first day we met in spring training, his stuff was good that day. He just made -- he had no -- I mean as far as location, he was off. But he had Altuve 0-2 in that first at-bat and he threw a fastball down the middle. Bregman hit a home run on a slider, and everything happened fast for him.

But then he made an adjustment in Game 4. He was great. Then he pitched well against the Yankees. He came in against the Yankees again and he did well.

So I think he used that as a learning experience. You know, it's not like he wants to beat the Astros more than the Yankees or the Royals. With Chris, he'll compete at a high level even throwing bullpen. So he's in a good place. He's ready to go. And I'm glad that he's going to throw Game 1 for us.

Q. Do you think in general, the postseason is something that really matters to him, that he wants --
ALEX CORA: He wants to win a World Series. Like you talk to David, the same way; Kimbrel, the same way. There's a lot of hardware down there -- Cy Youngs and MVPs and All-Star games and all that stuff. But there's not too many World Series rings down there. Pedroia, Workman, Bogaerts, I think that's it. And I know they're hungry for one and they have a shot right now.


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