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December 11, 2018

Alex Cora

Las Vegas, Nevada

Q. Lineup?
ALEX CORA: We've been thinking about it. I think we're going to maximize Mookie in a different spot. Flip-flop them, Beni leading off and Mookie hitting second. Talked to him, it makes sense. You guys saw what happened towards the end of the season, he became very passive again.

And it's not that I don't like that, I know what type of hitter he is. But I think doing that, Beni can be aggressive, too, and he can -- he's a good runner. He gets on base, and I put it this way to Mookie. And I know Beni's okay with it. But if you play 162 games, you're going to come up 162 at-bats with nobody on.

And last year, what I wanted from him in the lead-off spot we accomplished. It's a different season and we have to make adjustments, and that's where we're going to go.

Q. When did you --
ALEX CORA: Been going on for a month and a half, between plane rides and parades and eating and all that. But I think we can't expect that is going to be the same thing next year. We have to make adjustments and talking to Zach and everybody knows how people think, feel about the second hitter of the lineup.

So we're going to maximize that. It's not that we did it wrong last year. It worked for us. But it's a new season. And we have to turn the page, and I think that's a good way to do it.

Q. The way it looks now you're going to have largely the same group you had last year. How do you feel about that, do you think sometimes it's good to have new blood on the team after a season?
ALEX CORA: I've been listening to these guys the last month. And I know how they are, how genuine they are. They're saying the right things. Even when Mookie got the MVP, he was thinking about 2019.

The adjustment he has to make to make it a better season. Jackie, he went to California the other day to work on his swing. I know Mookie's going over there, J.D., too, Christian. I saw him in Puerto Rico.

These guys, I don't know, there's something about this group that I don't want to say it's unfinished business because we did an outstanding job and we're the World Series champs, but they're looking ahead. And they know that with the group that we have, we can do some special things. And just talking to them and texting and it's fun to listen to them. I'm like, yeah, that's cool.

I don't think they -- obviously we're celebrating this, we're enjoying it. But they're looking forward to next year to do special things.

Q. J.D., California?
ALEX CORA: Is it Craig? Yeah.

Q. Nobody's repeated in almost 20 years in the game. Have you sought out any advice from managers who did or who didn't or even coaches in other sports about psychologically how to approach that?
ALEX CORA: I still have Belichick. We haven't -- I haven't seen him since the selfie, but hopefully I can see him when we have the fanfest that weekend they have a playoff game and somebody can get me tickets and go over and hang out with them.

But I don't know. Obviously A.J. went through it last year. And one thing they did, which it was very impressive, they came out of the blocks at all cylinders, the way they pitched.

So I know he's not going to help me that much as far as what we have to do next year. But we talked about it yesterday. And obviously we've been talking to players, what are we going to do with them in Spring Training and taking care of them, the rotation. The other day I sat down on one of the flights and I went through all the games.

And the way it seems like half of their starts are going to be in five days -- five days or plus starts, which is great for them.

I don't know. I mean, I know repeating is tough, but like I said it starts with the players. People are going to talk about hangovers and all that and the banquet circuit. It's part of it. But they've been disciplined enough. I saw Nate yesterday. He looks great. Chris, he started throwing. David is doing his thing in Fort Myers.

When you hear that, you see that, you're like, okay, we're going to be in good shape.

Q. Dave said he kind of didn't talk to people when they were in trade rumors. Do you speak to them about that kind of thing?
ALEX CORA: This is the first time I've been in this situation. Whatever. You just put the mute in a few of you guys and don't follow them and just stay away from it. It's part of the business. Everybody knows that in today's world people are going to talk and it's going to be out there. But I haven't talked to any of them as far as like this. We're just preparing for next year. When I talk to them, it's about what we're trying to accomplish next year.

Q. As you build up the starters gradually in Spring Training, how deep in the calendar you went, and looking at the fact that you don't have a day on off in on the West Coast, 11 straight out of the gate, could you go to a six- or seven-man rotation --
ALEX CORA: There's a good chance in Game No. 6 we're going with the sixth starter. Obviously Spring Training -- it's very similar. If you look at it like as of now, like you take care of Rick, take care of Chris, David and Nate, Eduardo, he didn't pitch much at the end, so he'll be fine in spring training. And then Brasier, he pitched a lot. And Barnesy. The other guys, it was just like a regular season.

We have a few guys we're going to take care of, but we'll probably go to that guy the sixth -- it's the sixth game of the season in Oakland. We go there and everything kind of like falls into place.

Their second start is actually -- everybody pitches on six days' rest, which is great. We have two off days when we get home. So try to take advantage of it. Resetting the rotation right before or during London, we've got three days off. It's a different schedule. But like last year, we'll take advantage of certain days, reset the rotation. We're thinking about how we're going to do it, how are we going to split the lefties, finally we can do it with Nate and Rick. Are we doing that, are we not, really doesn't matter.

We'll take advantage of that.

Q. When did you turn the page from celebrating and appreciating the moment to, like you said, already planning the first batting rotation?
ALEX CORA: I don't know. Somewhere in between [inaudible] and Boston, one of those flights. Last year was great. We'll never forget what we did. It was a special season. What they did from day one in Spring Training all the way to October 28th, mentally, forget the athletic part and what they did on the field, you guys were around them, and it was like locked in, locked in the whole time.

And I feel the same way. I mean, started thinking about it. We had organizational meetings probably ten days after the World Series. And when I hopped on that plane, it was like, okay, here we go. We've got to be ready for next year, and I think that's when I started thinking 2019.

Q. Did you learn anything from just being on the 2008 Red Sox team? Did you learn anything that can kind of help you try to repeat?
ALEX CORA: Yeah, that it's not that easy. That team everybody got hurt. All of a sudden you had Kotsay playing first, I was playing short, Uke, there was a lot of injuries. And we played to Game 7 of the Championship Series.

I said it last year, and it takes more than 25 guys to do that. And last year health-wise, we're really, really good. I mean, Mookie, he missed, what, three weeks, whatever. Besides that, obviously Pedy and Nuny, he was banged up. But as far as health, it was almost a perfect season.

We've got to be ready. We've got to be ready for next year. Hopefully everybody stays healthy and everybody gets their at-bats and their turns.

But as you guys know, it doesn't happen that way all the time. So we'll be ready for that. I learned that from that team.

Q. Dave's talked about -- he's been asked a lot about the [inaudible] situation. What are your thoughts about that?
ALEX CORA: We've been talking about it. And for -- it looked simple last year, but it wasn't. I mean, Blake didn't have at-bats. He worked out perfectly because Christian gets hurt and he starts playing.

But as far as like roster and where we're at and pitching, in a perfect world, you have two catchers. And we had three good ones. They're good.

Defensively you can see Blake, the strides he made, blocking pitches, taking ownership of scouting report and calling games. Christian, September, October, that's the guy we wanted from the get-go. He was outstanding. And obviously Sandy -- although offensively he wasn't great, but defensively he was amazing. You go back to the World Series, the way they blocked pitches, the way they called games.

During the playoffs, it was amazing. So we'll see what happens. Obviously you heard it, he's not going to just give them away. There's some value. And there's value in catching in the industry.

Last year the Astros traded for Martin Maldonado for a reason, because of Cleveland and us. So we'll see what happens. And if it doesn't happen in the offseason, we'll go into Spring Training and we'll take care of them. And then whatever they decide, we'll do.

Q. If you go to Spring Training with all three again, is it open competition in your mind?
ALEX CORA: Yeah, I think so. I want to see Blake catching more. I'll give him a chance to -- well, he did in Spring Training last year, but there's a few things that we recognize during the season that he does well. I mean, his release was a lot better. Footwork was better. Blocking was better.

So they know. That group is a special one. They help each other through October, even though Blake only caught one inning, but it was a huge inning, too.

So they'll get their at-bats and whatever we decide we'll go from there.

Q. How important is a guy like Porcello, like the other guys that got talked about?
ALEX CORA: Rick is amazing. As you guys know, everything -- whenever I have to send a message from traveling or clubhouse stuff or dress codes, it goes through Rick, Chris and David.

And he's amazing. The emotion he showed when we won, I mean, he told me the other day, he hasn't stopped crying. Good athlete who gives you innings, fills his position, very accountable.

And I was talking about one of the games last year -- so you guys know I always -- that double against Scherzer kind of like changed -- didn't change the season, but it got us going again. Bases loaded, 0-2 count, it's a double. Ironically it's a pitcher that got us going again. I have a lot of respect for him. In the postseason he started the whole thing with the rover, and the way he threw the ball in Game 1 the two outs he got, that was amazing. The emotion he showed, he's a good one. He's a good one.

And we've been in touch a lot lately talking about next year how we're going to use him in Spring Training. He's in a good place.

Q. How much of an impression does that, especially in the postseason, make on you going forward to see guys, Eovaldi and all those guys, do what they did?
ALEX CORA: It was unreal. You start watching like the movie, and I've been watching every game trying to -- in the playoffs, and you forget about stuff. And you see them the way they did it. It was impressive. But you've got to give them credit. From August on, and Brad and the medical team, they did an amazing job to put these guys into the situations that we're in, physically.

That wasn't easy to do. But they were willing to do it, first of all, and physically they were fine. It seems like their stuff was getting better, actually. The more they pitched, the better they were, especially David. Throwing 95, 96, good changeup.

What Nate did, you don't see it that often. You don't see it that often. And people talk about usage and the way we used them, well, we were prepared for that. And I do think that the season and the lead helped us out from August on to see the big picture.

There was one day against the Mets when he gave a home run, Rick, in the fifth inning, and Brock hit the homer, I think, whatever, blah, blah, blah. I take him out after the fifth inning, and we talked about this for like ten days.

That Sunday or Saturday you're going five. So I take him out, and I hear fricken chairs and screaming and this and that, that's fricken BS, and I'm like: What's going on here? I thought he was upset because he gave up the home run.

Two innings later he comes to me and says, My bad. I'm like, What are you talking about? I was screaming at you. I was like, What? Why? I forgot that today was the five-inning start. But we did all that stuff. And they were great. Very proud of them. Very proud.

That group, those three guys, and then Nate, what they did, wow. It's amazing, amazing. I look at the last inning when he came in, all those guys were standing up, giving him a standing ovation. Craig was there, it was like that's cool. That's cool.

And you saw him, you know, like he's always intense. But in that inning it was like, no, they have no chance. It was cool to see. Cool to see.

Q. How do you think you could get more out of Devers next year?
ALEX CORA: We saw a good Rafy in September and October [inaudible] change up at all, just one game against -- I think it was Ryu. There was one game that sped up on him. But defensively amazing. Outstanding job, that play he made to his right, that was good. And staying in the middle of the field. Actually, I'm going to see him this weekend. He's going to Puerto Rico for -- we've got some baseball clinics down there, and he's coming.

He's into it right away. He's only 22. He's learning. Eating habits. Working out, all that stuff.

And we've been in contact with him constantly, and I do feel that those at-bats in October, that can translate over 162 games. He was able to slow down. Whatever he found with his rehab assignment, he kept it moving forward for him.

Last year I say, what, 280, 30 and a hundred, this year I'll say he's going to be a good hitter, and we go from here.

Q. Did you change anything in terms of his offseason in terms of what he'll do?
ALEX CORA: No, he made a commitment. Hired a personal trainer and nutritionist. Looking forward to see on Thursday to see if it's real. I'll feed him rice and beans in Puerto Rico.

Q. That's in the Dominican?
ALEX CORA: Yes, Dominican. Kioshi [phonetic] is going to go down, and Masigh [phonetic], too, I think a week from today to the Dominican to see him. Then we might fly into Fort Myers just to check on him. But we're trusting him. We're trusting him. For everything we got, the feedback we got, Eddie went down there, Romero, he saw him, he looks great.

So, like I said, Thursday I'll see him, see where he's at.

Q. Did you ask him a specific like way to drop or anything?
ALEX CORA: We have an idea last year when we got to the, their check-ins before fanfest or whatever they call it, my bad, it was 235 and he was right on it.

One thing we want -- he does an outstanding job in Spring Training of getting himself in shape. We don't want him to do that. We want him to come in shape and just have a regular spring training, and hopefully that's the case this year.

Q. I would think the year with Astros, fair amount of James Paxton, what do you think of him joining the A list?
ALEX CORA: Happy we're not going to see him on Opening Day. But that means we're going to see him probably four times this year. He's a good pitcher. When healthy, he's one of the best. Stuff-wise, up there with the Bumgarners and the Sales and the Price. It was a good move. I saw Cash two days ago: Hey, man, take it easy. Relax. They're going to make their moves. They'll have a great team. They did last year. Not surprisingly they added him, and he's a tough pitcher.

Q. I know when you broke camp, everybody feels about [inaudible] was there a moment fairly early in the season where you got together with the coaches and you guys kind of looked at each other and said this could be --
ALEX CORA: We had the best record in Spring Training. I joke with that, but actually we were playing so good towards the end of spring, we were running the bases well. We were swinging the bat well, we were pitching. And we were going to play a lot of games. When you go to Tampa and Miami, you know you're playing.

Weather-wise, it's perfect. That really helped. But the way they play in Spring Training, that was fun to watch. They were good. So we felt like going into the season -- I'm not saying that 17-and-2 start, but we knew we were going to be a good team. We were going to have a good start.

Q. What do you think Dustin's chances are kind of of coming back next year?
ALEX CORA: Pedy? I'm not going to bet against him. We've been in touch. I think he starts running, Dave mentioned it the other day, so that's the big test, when he starts working out and running.

But I'm not going to bet against him. I'm looking forward for him to lead off that game. That's the only time. I told the guys, if Pedy is going to play, if he's ready for Opening Day, he'll lead off that day. He deserves that.

He's a huge part of this organization. What he did last year, think about it, man, like he didn't play, but he was there. He was there for them the whole time. And there were a lot of conversations in the cage, in the dugout, in the clubhouse, that he was a part of it.

And I wish he would have played more last year, but I'm very proud of what he did.

Q. The options at second base in the event that Dustin's not ready at the start of the year, Nunez certainly struggled at second. Other than Brock, do you see Lin in the mix there, or would you like to have more competition to provide you with some more depth if Peds is not ready?
ALEX CORA: We're good with Nuny and Holt. I think Nuny in the beginning, the angle is a lot different. I went from short to second in '02, and it took me a few days, but that was my strength, defense.

But for him, it was tough. And I don't think he had confidence in his knee at that point. It took him a while. And then whatever. But we were really good with those two at second base.

I don't know, there's fly balls and strikeouts from our pitching staff. We just have to turn to a place when we have to. I'm comfortable with them. Lin is going to play second in Spring Training. And Chavis, the whole situation. You heard Dave, we're going to explore that. And I bet somehow we'll probably add something, Minor League deals, second basemen that can probably help us out.

Q. When it comes to relievers, generally, in their year-to-year volatility, why do you think it happens, and what challenge does it possess to plan a long-term bullpen or one-season bullpen?
ALEX CORA: I don't know, man. The bullpen is probably the toughest thing about managing. Going into September, everybody thought that was our weakest link. But if you think about it, good teams, they go to their guys and keep going and keep going. And they're going to run into the wall.

It's usually in September. I pay attention and I was like, well, we faced the Yankees around that time, and we score runs against their bullpen. We did it to Houston. We did it to Indians, all playoff-caliber teams. That's the nature of it.

And every season is different. I think teams are doing an outstanding job preparing guys. You saw what happened with Brasier. His usage, he's fast in the zone. Even Heath Hembree towards the end, he struggled and then we move him on the rubber, and he gave us a big inning in Game 3.

So if we have stuff, we believe in the hard throwers and spinning the ball and we recognize what they can do, their strength and weaknesses and analytics talk, how we can exploit these guys, maximize their ability. We're comfortable with them.

And with the guys that we have right now, I'm good with it. And I know they're going to do a good job next week.

Q. It's really hard to repeat. I don't know if you thought about your messaging when you get to Spring Training yet, or how you think this group is going to put forth that notion of being hunted?
ALEX CORA: We were hunted this year. I mean, for all the talk about other teams, at one point everybody was like, yeah, that's the team we have to go get.

So it was a special season, but it wasn't that easy. I mean, we're used to that. We're used to that. And going into October, it was win the whole series or it was a horrible season. I think they're prepared. They lived it 28 days in October.

So when it comes to Spring Training, have a pretty good idea what I want to say. We'll find something else. The wall is gone. It's a new story. We'll find something cool for them to look up to and we'll go get them.

Q. You identified Bogaerts last year as someone who could take a step forward, who is on the roster right now?
ALEX CORA: Looking forward to Jackie the whole season. That's going to be cool. We had a conversation at Christian's wedding, and that's when he said he's going to go to LA. I told Angelica, this is going to be good.

He felt it and he understands who he is now and I don't think the whole -- like the roller coaster Jackie Bradley will happen again. He understands who he is. And with that offensive approach over 162 games, we'll see what happens.

Q. Can you describe the numbers aside what J.T.'s impact was from day one?
ALEX CORA: I mean, the communication, you have to be there and live it, it's amazing. He gets it. The way he talks during scouting reports and meetings, the way he talks to hitters, pitchers, he's amazing. And it's funny because around this time last year we met with him. We were in Orlando, and he talked -- everything he said he did.

I was like -- sometimes you're like, oh, whatever, yeah, he's just trying to get a big deal, trying to impress us. But no, that's who he is. He loves the game. He's very passionate about it and he's a winner.

Q. How rare are those guys?
ALEX CORA: Very. Not too many of them.

Q. Winning the World Series last year, was there anything you didn't accomplish last year that you felt like you kept incomplete or something, in terms of developing a guy or certain styles of play or anything like that?
ALEX CORA: No, not really. Everything we set to do, we did.

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