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October 4, 2021

Alex Cora

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Fenway Park

Boston Red Sox

Workout Day Press Conference

Q. As high-pressure, high-stakes this type of moment is being in a one-game wild-card, how much relief do you get from the fact that you have the ability to hand Nate the ball for this start?

ALEX CORA: He's been amazing all season. The way we structured our rotation towards the end, it was Chris for 162, Nate for 163 for the wild-card game. Here we are.

What he's done since he got here in 2018 has been amazing. We always talk about 2019 and that was more on us than on him. We put him in a tough spot coming out of the IL, put him in the bullpen, and you know, it's a lot different. He finished strong in 2019 last year. He had a great season.

This year, the numbers that we always look at, ERA and all that have been solid, but the ones under the hood had been good, too. I'm not sure where he ended up as far as like WAR and all that, but you know what? It really doesn't matter, his WAR or ERA, he's been very consistent for us and we're glad that he's going to take the ball tomorrow.

Q. What's the latest on J.D.? What's his status?

ALEX CORA: He's getting treatment. We'll probably have to make a decision tomorrow morning roster-wise, of course, and let's see how he reacts to treatment and everything that they are doing to him in there. We don't know yet.

Q. How different is roster construction for a wild-card game versus what you went through in 2018 for a whole series?

ALEX CORA: Oh, no, this is different. This is one game and there's going to be guys that we are not going to have on the roster that obviously they deserve to be there. But we don't need a one-game, quote/unquote, series. It's very difficult. Obviously you go through the game mentally. I've been thinking about this game and moves and all that stuff for the last 24 hours, and we don't know the roster.

I know they have got a few situations over there, too. So it's very hard to do. But at the end, I think the 26 guys that they are going to pick and the 26 guys we are going to pick, they are going to be the right ones and it should be fun tomorrow.

Q. Some of the things that have troubled you throughout the season, fundamentals, defensive lapses, those things obviously take on greater consequence when it's one game, winner-take-all. How much does that concern you that a baserunning error or a misplay in the infield or outfield or an overthrow of a cutoff guy could end your season?

ALEX CORA: But at the same time, one swing, we could win it. We are who we are, we know that, but we didn't run into 91 wins just being lucky. We have a good baseball team. We have to keep working and it doesn't change. Hopefully we can get back to what we did before ten days ago, and play good defense around the bases, as well.

Offensively we need to be better than the last six days or nine days. We know we are better. We have to get back to control the strike zone and hunt for pitches in the zone and do damage with it. At the end, we are not going to change who we are in one night, but one thing we can do is win a game just like we did 91 times in 162 games -- sorry, 92.

Q. Do you know who is going to play second tomorrow, and would you use Sale tomorrow?

ALEX CORA: We still talk about Chris; most likely, no. At second base, there's a good chance it's going to be Christian. There's a good chance it's going to be Plawecki behind the plate, too.

Q. I saw Durant here, is there a chance he's going to be there?

ALEX CORA: There's a good chance he's going to be on the roster.

Q. You mentioned how much Schwarber has picked up the team in the second half, but how much of a help is his playoff experience?

ALEX CORA: He's been good but we have other guys that have been there, done that, too. The at-bats are so different. The approach is so different, and the voice is loud and clear in meetings. He's done an amazing job offensively for us. Even yesterday, this past weekend when he working counts and walking and he miss-hit a few balls. I think he was trying hard to hit one there. But the quality of the at-bats were great and that's what we are looking for.

Tomorrow we are facing one of the best pitchers in the big leagues. And like I always said, it's always a grind with him. Since 2018 when he was with the Astros, we battled with him down there in the regular season and then he pitched here in Game 2 of the ALCS and it was a grind with him.

It's a challenge to face a guy like Gerrit. He has a fastball and a slider and he's one of the best and he has done it. I think Kyle will help us out in that sense. He can catch up with the fastball but at the same time he can work a count. We're glad that he's with us, and not only as a player but as a person. He's been amazing.

Q. You were part of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry deep in the 2000s. How has this rivalry evolved and what do you think about this single-game elimination between these two teams?

ALEX CORA: I would say, 2005, 2006, we weren't good. 2005, they came here -- '05? No, '06 was that five-game series. Bobby Abreu, he got on base like 20 times. 2007, 2008. It was good. It was more about the characters, the players, bigger-than-life personas, like Manny and David. Even David now, he's retiring, he's Big Papi. Obviously Jeter and Posada and the names at that point, it was like, wow, these guys are unbelievable players.

We have great players. We have some good players. I don't know if -- they used to fight, too, back in the day, Jason and Alex, so I think that gave it a little bit more for the fan base. Here, two teams, they are playing for the same thing. Throughout the season, it's been a roller coaster ride. We played really well early on against them and then they played really well against us the second part of the season.

You know, 2018 was different than 2019. In 2019, they beat us. They hit the ball out of the ballpark. It wasn't fun in 2019. In 2018, it was fun for us. I know last year was a lot different for both organizations, but this year, it's two good baseball teams that on any given night, they can beat the opposition.

I always talk about this game. It's not an easy game. It's just one game. If you're good for one night, if you're better than the opposition, then you move on. But they have a great team. They did an amazing job. I think Aaron throughout the season with all the criticism, for him to be in this spot, tells you what kind of manager he is, what kind of person he is.

I talked to him yesterday. I'm very proud of him. At one point we went there -- it was very tough for him. I know how it works. We work in two markets that people will talk about your team and they will talk about you. You know, although I try to cancel the noise here, I check on my guys around the league. At one point, it was very difficult over there. Although tomorrow, at 8:00, he wants to beat me as bad as I want to beat him, and at the end, we'll see who advances.

But I think he did an amazing job this year.

Q. There was a report yesterday that if there was a tiebreaker, it showed the Yankees would rather play you guys than the Jays in that scenario. Does that add anything? Is that bulletin board material?

ALEX CORA: No. We don't need that. What we want to do is play in Tampa in a few days. If we need something like that, we're not as good as we think we are. That's part of the process. There's a lot of different stuff that goes into that. I don't even remember what we decided to do, to be honest to you. I decided to not listen to it. There was a scenario that I think Seattle flew to Toronto and then they had to fly back home. I don't know. I don't use that.

Q. Just with everything that happened yesterday, Sale got lost in the shuffle, what did you see from him?

ALEX CORA: The changeup. The changeup is not where it usually is. It happened in Baltimore with Mountcastle. It happened yesterday with Bell and Mercer. I remember we were talking about his first bullpen here and I was just telling him that we were so excited about the changeup, because supposedly when you come out of all this process, whatever, that's the last pitch you get because of how you have to manipulate the pitch.

He's not there yet. You can see it. The action is okay, but it's actually cutting. So he actually threw today. He felt good. He stopped by the office, and like, no, we're not doing that. But it's the changeup. The slider is good. The fastball is good. But that's a pitch that the feel is not there yet, so he'll keep working on it and hopefully he has a chance to start again here in October. He'll make some adjustments and give us a chance to win.

Q. There have been some playoff games where teams have had to use openers or bullpen game because they're out of pitchers. It's Nate against Cole, two All-Stars in a game like this?

ALEX CORA: Just feels good. It feels good. As a manager, too, going into the game, although you have to be ready to go to Plan B as soon as possible. It's only nine innings, or whatever, you know. But those two guys have been -- they have been great. I think for baseball, it will be great to see those guys going at it. And you know, I think as a manager, like I said, it's a lot easier doing it this way than actually trying to map it out for 27 outs and hope for the best.

That's why yesterday was so difficult because you start looking where we were pitching-wise, and where we were in the score on the scoreboard, and where the other teams were, it's like, there's a chance here that we have to play like four days in a row.

So you had to balance that. It was actually the most uncomfortable game that I had to manage, to be honest with you. I always preach stay in the moment, but as a manager, you have to actually manage today and think about tomorrow and the worst-case scenarios. I'm just glad that we had Carita and he did what he did.

Q. You said you held Nate out because you wanted him available for today. Will you hold out anybody for Game 1 in a Division Series?

ALEX CORA: Roster-wise, probably, yeah. We still have to make decisions with Eddie and Nick. There's a really good chance that Nick will be on the roster. There's a chance that Eddie will be, too. I think, you know, as far as like stamina and where they are at right now physically, they should be okay over the week. But obviously tomorrow is the biggest day.

So I think having them on the roster makes sense. Just be ready for that one and then if you have to use the bullpen for one day in Tampa, it means that something good happened tomorrow.

Q. You were three years old, but how familiar are you with 1978 the last time this happened?

ALEX CORA: Not too familiar. When I was three, I had a big yellow bat, wearing diapers, running around the little league ballpark with my dad. But not too familiar. I seen the videos and all of that. Peter, the legend, Gammons, he'll always talk about that game. But no, no, I'm more about '86 and Boone hit a homer and all that.

Q. What is it that you guys like about Kevin behind the plate tomorrow?

ALEX CORA: Those two have done an amazing job together. Nothing against Christian, but they have been good. I think that's just the answer. You know, offensively, I think both have done a good job lately. You know, Kevin can catch up with the fastball, too. We know that.

But this is more about, you know, throughout the season, those two -- he caught him 17 times if I'm not mistaken, right -- and they did a good job. But Christian will be ready.

Q. And do you foresee the weather being an issue? How do you keep your guys --

ALEX CORA: I haven't looked at it. Somebody from back home texted me that it should be okay. A lot of people jumping on that Jet Blue flight tonight to come here. They are making sure that the weather is good, but I haven't even looked at it. Hopefully everything goes well.

Q. What makes Sawamura so more effective on the base and what makes you feel comfortable to send him in back-to-back innings?

ALEX CORA: He's done a good job limiting the damage, right, throughout the season. I think the fastball plays, velocity, but the difference is the split. He can get ground balls and get out of it. Yesterday he did a good job coming in for Chris, getting that double play and then going out again and doing his thing. He did it against the Yankees, too.

We haven't used him too much. He's fresh. Obviously he had his issues a little bit with the elbow so you have to take care of him. Since early in the season, it feels like that was his role. You know, we had somebody like that in '18 with Heath Hembree. He'll come in, limit the damage and then move forward and that's what Sawa has done for us.

Q. You've defined this team as being good and imperfect at times. What is your broader definition of who and what this team is, what they have shown you this year?

ALEX CORA: First thing is first, they are very talented. I always said on any night, we can beat anybody, whoever you played. Doesn't matter if you won 108 games for 50 games, doesn't matter, we are that talented.

But at the same time, we are not perfect and we know it, and we keep talking about it. We keep preaching about it. One thing for sure, the last few days, the last -- in Washington, it was very similar to early in the season. Although the at-bats early on weren't great, little by little they got better and you could feel it. You see the light at the end of the tunnel pushing them too. We're in this because at one point it looked like, yeah, we might backpedal into this. Some people probably feel that way. We don't. But it looked like that.

We got swept by the Yankees and we lose two-out-of-three in Baltimore and look, like where are we at, like why not? Let's grab it, right, and they did. But we put up good at-bats late in games which is awesome.

And they don't stop playing, regardless. Sometimes it looks that way, but they never stop playing. That's the mark of a good baseball team.

Q. With Sale do you feel like you need to keep him on regular rest, or is he a candidate for Game 1?

ALEX CORA: We'll talk about it. Hopefully we can have that conversation, when is it, on Wednesday.

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