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October 24, 2018

Alex Cora

Boston, Massachusetts - pregame 2

Q. Can you explain the team traveling tomorrow? Instead of flying out tonight you're flying in the afternoon. Can you talk about that decision.
ALEX CORA: I think it's better for the players to get their rest tonight, sleep at home and hop on a plane. We've been talking about it through the playoffs and it's tough traveling to go to LA, but we're not complaining; we're in the World Series.

If it was Milwaukee we were going to fly tonight, but now that it's LA, we'll stay here, get our sleep, hop on a plane and be there tomorrow.

Q. How comfortable is having Eovaldi in your bullpen made you? And is there any temptation to leave him there?
ALEX CORA: No, he'll start. He's going to start a game in the World Series. Which game, we don't know. It's either 3 or 4. We've been talking about it the whole postseason, we're all in today. And if there's a window we feel is a good matchup for him, we'll use him and then we'll make adjustments. Same thing with Rick, if we feel there's a matchup out there that we feel is good for Rick, we'll use him and adjust for 3 and 4.

His stuff, I've been saying all along, probably the best in the playoffs as far as like pitchers. He's throwing 101, 102, cutters at 95 and attacking the strike zone like no others. I mentioned about Charlie Morton last year, what he did throughout the playoffs and it seems like Nate, he's becoming that guy.

Q. Benintendi was in here last night after the game and a reporter told him he was the third Red Sox ever to get four hits in a World Series game. His response is, "I don't care." I'm just wondering, is he that stoic in private? And what do you think his feeling is as a player?
ALEX CORA: Actually when I walked out, he was walking in. I was like "Great game." And he's like, "It's past my bedtime."

He doesn't show much, but he cares. He does. At 7:05 or at 8:09, he's ready to go to battle. And it's fun to watch. He prepares, he has his routine. He's very quiet. Guys joke with him that supposedly he doesn't like baseball. No, he loves baseball. He likes to compete. I always said, those guys that were drafted in the first round, they're special, you know. You don't get drafted in the first round because you feel that he might make it, no. You draft those guys because you do feel they're going to impact the game like no others. And he's been great the whole season, very consistent.

He accepted the challenge from the get-go. We talk about Mookie being the leadoff hitter, but I said it's Mookie and Beni. And he's been great. His approach yesterday is great. I know he got lucky twice. He didn't know where the ball was when he hit it. So be it. I'm very happy with how he's playing.

Q. Do you have a feel for how your success is being received or celebrated in Puerto Rico right now?
ALEX CORA: Yeah, my phone every night let's me know. Yeah, it's been incredible. It's been incredible. I've tried to stay away from social media and all the stuff that I usually do, but just for the right reasons. I've got to get sleep.

But I know they're watching games. Somebody the other day said something that I was like, nah, no way. Like we love boxing back home. And when Miguel (Cotto), he's from my hometown, and when his fight is on, Saturday night in Caguas, when Miguel was fighting -- Saturday night in Puerto Rico when Miguel was fighting it stops. Same with (Felix) Trinidad and (Wilfred) Benitez and (Wilfredo) Gomez and all those guys, we love boxing. Someone said the other day, that feeling was in my hometown. It meant a lot. Like, "Nah, no way."

They're enjoying this. They're enjoying that Kiké is in the World Series, Christian is in the World Series, and obviously I'm managing. I said, if this brings joy to my island, so be it. It's been cool.

Q. How do you trigger the intensity to play like that for 162 games? Teams have flat spots, once they've proven how good they are. You guys won two-thirds of your games. Did it seem like it flowed or was it something that you sort of keep the whip out for 162 games?
ALEX CORA: No, since Spring Training we've been good. Remember, I said jokingly, being sarcastic, that we had the best record in Spring Training, and people almost crushed me for that. It's a good team. They're very talented. They're very talented. And we do feel that on a nightly basis the guy on the mound, he's going to give us a chance to win. And then offensively we feel we can match up with anybody. And that's been the key.

Pitching has carried us. Offensively, like I said, we feel we can score runs. But when you have that guy on the mound on a nightly basis, it's a good feeling. It's a good feeling to keep the win streak going or stop losing streaks. They've been amazing, very consistent. And I think that's the key.

It's a special season. 108 wins, oof, that's a lot. I can't imagine Seattle, what they did, 116. That's amazing. But they're consistent. They're very humble. They don't get caught up in the whole stuff. They love to play baseball and they're showing it.

Q. For the team to be so consistent and yet still to be kind of peaking right now, and maybe even finding another level, how much do you think of that is attributed to the plan you had in Spring Training and throughout the season to keep the pitchers fresh first and not overwork them in the spring, and then give players enough time off here and there so they would be in their prime here in October?
ALEX CORA: That was something we talked in the interview process, and I learned that last year with A.J. He did an outstanding job keeping Jose fresh, Carlos, George.

These guys are freak athletes. They're unreal. And last year we had a conversation and usually when you have Jose going, Altuve, and those hot streaks, 15-game hitting streak, getting two hits a day, most managers will just keep them rolling. And it was the other way around with A.J. It was like, he's getting on base at a high rate. He's running the bases. He's giving everything he has. An off-day when he's hot, he's not bad. Let's not wait for him to go 0-for-4 and get into a slump, although that doesn't happen very often. But it made sense to me.

That was something that I learned from him. We talked about it in the interview process and I had a chance right away in Tampa, in the first four games, I gave Rafy an off-day, I don't know, Beni an off-day. And then the big day was Game 6 of the season. We went to Miami, and I had to play Mookie. And I still remember Xander, he looked at the lineup and he's like, "Oh, this is real." And I'm like, "Yeah, you guys are going to rest."

And the other big day was after the no-hitter in Oakland, we didn't play a few guys and people were like, what are you doing? It's a scheduled off-day. And they bought into it and it feels that way. They're fresh and they're playing probably as good, like the first 17 games of the season, when we were 15-2.

Q. Can you talk about the production you're getting out of third base. How do you decide who to play, because obviously it's not a matter of whether the other team is starting a righty or lefty?
ALEX CORA: Their lefties are different. We do feel that Rafy matches up well with some of them. So that's the reason he started yesterday and he's starting tonight. The quality of his at-bats since he came back from rehab assignment, amazing. He's been able to slow down the game, not chasing too many pitches. I know how special he is. He's a threat. He's been doing an outstanding job with us, not only offensively but defensively.

With Nunie, we know what he can do. And with them it's a tough team to match up. And if you don't load all your lefties and you don't have righties or lefties -- you have to keep your righties and your lefties balanced on the bench. That's the most important thing because we know they will go to their matchups. And hopefully it works to our advantage, that it's going to be one at-bat or two at-bats that we feel that if we hit for somebody, it's going to be to our advantage. And yesterday it happened to hit a home run. If he doesn't hit a home run, probably people will be, "Why did he hit for Devers?" But we felt that was a great matchup for us. And that's the reason he didn't start. And that's the reason he came in and pinch-hit.

And credit to Nunie, he had a great game plan and hit it out of the ballpark.

Q. Two totally different questions: First, with Yadi, I know you addressed this earlier in Spanish, what impact has Yadi had on the island's recovery efforts?
ALEX CORA: It was amazing. I know he helped most of the towns back home, but there's one specifically, Utuado, and that's where Springer's family is from, George. And he went up there and he went house by house to give ice bags and food. He was up there for a while. I call him the leader because he's the leader of our national team. He's the leader of the St. Louis Cardinals. And he's the leader on the field. But off the field, he became the leader last year.

He put a lot of effort, his foundation, they do an outstanding job. Yadi and Wanda and the kids. I'm very proud of him. Actually it's kind of like ironic that I don't think he's going to be able to be here, but the reason is the right one: He's managing our under-23 national team. So he gets the Roberto Clemente Award. And Clemente, he managed our national team at one point while he was playing in the Big Leagues. Because Yadi is not here because of that, it's like, wow, it was meant to be.

Very proud of him. Very proud of what he's done throughout his career. But I think last year was the highlight of his career. What he did was amazing.

Q. And the other separate question is a lot of conversation about how Benintendi and Devers handle lefties. Are you concerned at all about the speed with which teams are platooning younger players rather than giving them developmental opportunities against lefties? How difficult a balancing act is that?
ALEX CORA: I think I talked about it last year somewhere, I don't know. It's one of those that in the Minor Leagues they can hit lefties, they play against everybody. And then they get here, "No, he can't hit lefties." It's probably on us. It's probably on us. And we let Rafy play a lot against lefties and Beni, too.

I don't know. It's probably an organizational philosophy. People, they pay for guys that hit lefties. Steve Pearce, for example. So it's just decisions that teams make and they want to exploit matchups and platoon advantages. And in our case we feel that both of them, actually all of them, they can hit lefties. I know the numbers during the season, they didn't show it, but we trust them. We trust their approach and that's the reason they're playing.

Q. With managers having more information now at their fingertips than ever, there's kind of a perception that what managers do is manage by the numbers all the time. How much of what you do in the game is kind of feelings you have for how players are going, hunches, that kind of stuff, how much inside of a nine-inning game is there still room for that?
ALEX CORA: I don't know if it's like gut feeling or whatever they call it, but we prepare before the game, and we talk about matchups and possible scenarios. We know the opposition and how they manage and how we can maneuver our team, so we can have the best matchups. And we felt that, yesterday, for example, there was three or four matchups that we do feel Eduardo can be very successful. And you saw it yesterday. It just happened to be that we were patient enough, and they felt probably that Devers -- I don't know, whatever Dave decided. And we felt that, okay, this is the spot.

But you prepare and then when you make those decisions, you feel convicted about it. I think that's the way I'd put it. That's the way we do it.

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