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October 7, 2021

Alex Cora

St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Tropicana Field

Boston Red Sox

Pregame 1 Press Conference

Q. Can you explain the plan for J.D. going forward and when you expect him to be available to start?

ALEX CORA: He is available tonight. He is. Obviously, four at-bats it's going to be hard probably, but he will keep getting treatment. He is going to hit outside, and we'll see. You know, if we need it in a big spot and in a situation that we feel it's the right one, not only because of his bat, but where he is at physically, we'll use him.

Q. Alex, obviously there's some stops and starts for him, but how satisfied are you with the evolution of Christian Arroyo in this year and what he has been --

ALEX CORA: He has been solid, man. He has been solid. Saw him on TV last year; he did a good job towards the end. When we talked a little bit in the offseason, he told me a few things that he was going to try to do to get better, and I think physically he showed up in great shape. Better athlete than what I thought he was. He played second base outstanding. Defensively he has been outstanding the whole season.

Offensively some big swings for us. Obviously, he has been out for a while. He got hurt, and then the COVID situation. So hasn't been easy the last -- the last few weeks to get him at-bats because of what Jose was doing, but he played the other day, put some good at-bats. Hopefully today here -- I asked him how many tickets he is leaving today or how much it is going to cost him for us because we are playing Tampa. He said a lot.

So hopefully he can perform, you know, in front of family and friends here in Tropicana Field, and help us win ballgames.

Q. Hey, Alex. What went into your decision to have Sale go in Game 2?

ALEX CORA: It was his turn. Yeah, it was his turn. Last time he pitched was, what, Sunday. He didn't throw too many pitches, and to use him in Game 2 gives us the flexibility to use him probably later on in the series. Although with him we're going to be very careful as far as, like, if he is going to be in the bullpen or not for obvious reasons, right? But if it's up to him, he probably would be out there -- he will be in the bullpen today, but these guys are important for the present and obviously for the future of the organization.

It's been two years trying to get to this point, you know, all the hard work, all the tears and sweat, you know, throughout the process. So we have to take care of him. But it was his turn, and we feel comfortable with him.

Q. Alex, as you studied this Rays team the last few years, what stands out to you about why they're so successful, what elements of the team, what catches your eye first about them?

ALEX CORA: Yeah, I mean, obviously last year I had a chance to watch a lot of teams, right, while I was serving my suspension, and one thing that caught my attention is how athletic they are. They're very athletic. You know, them -- last year it was them, the Dodgers, Cleveland, San Diego, and they do a lot of good things.

One thing they do great, they play defense. It feels like whenever you hit the ball in the air, if it doesn't go out, they're going to catch it, and that is something that is very important not only nowadays, throughout the history of the game. You play good defense, you're going to give yourself a chance.

Offensively, I know people get caught up on the homers and the strikeouts, but in certain situations they hit the ball to the right side, and they advance runners. Men on third with less than two outs, they put the ball in play.

They're very well-coached. I think everybody that works with Kevin has a great pulse for the team. You can tell. And it's a hard-working group. They have fun doing it, too, as a team, as an organization, and it's just one of those I know people get caught up on payroll and all that, but they have a bunch of -- they have a lot of good players, a lot of good baseball players.

We see it in spring training too. You know, this is not only this team, you know, it's the other guys that are coming, you know, and it seems like they have the perfect mold of players. It seems like they have all these athletic guys that can play everywhere. They're very versatile. They have a great baseball IQ, and I think that's why they're successful.

I don't think there's a magic formula, like people put it out there, like, oh, they found it. No, no, they understand that you need good baseball players to be good, and they maximize their roster, they maximize everything that they have organizational-wise, and there's a reason they're playing in the playoffs again. They're really good.

Q. Alex, I know your connection with Kike's family goes back to when his father was one of your coaches in Caguas. I wonder if you can speak to your relationship with Kike over the years. How old was he when you first met him?

ALEX CORA: He was 8 or 9. He was a pain in the you know what. He was all over the place. He wanted to play catch with us. He wanted to take ground balls with us, and at one point, you know, we separated. You know, his dad didn't coach us and, and we didn't see it. And then all of a sudden he was playing for Carolina after he got drafted or Ponce I want to say. I was still playing, and they're like, oh, that's the kid that used to hang out with us. I was like, no way.

Little by little you see it. You know, you hear stories about him in the Minor Leagues, and he made it to the Big Leagues, and you start following us, obviously. He was part of the 2017 WBC team, and actually he was a backup. He always reminds me of that one. He didn't start. He started the last game against Team USA in center field.

But watching from afar when he was in L.A., a good player. He played great against us in the World Series in 2018. He hit a homer against Kimbrel, if I'm not mistaken. Just a good all-around player. He has a great baseball IQ, very versatile, and my goal coming into the season, I wanted people to recognize him as a good baseball player. Not only the fun guy, the good kid, you know, like everybody likes him. No, no, no. I wanted people to recognize him that he is one of the best players in the Big Leagues, and if you look around, the whole package. He had a great offensive season. He is a great base runner and a great defender.

So I'm just very proud of what he has done and what he means to the group in there.

Q. Hi, Alex. Over the course of his nine starts, how would you assess Chris Sale's season in terms of steady improvement up and down, and what do you feel is maybe the missing ingredient in terms of the Chris Sale from a couple of years ago?

ALEX CORA: I mean, not too many guys can come out of, you know, Tommy John surgery, and you throw him in the middle of a pennant race, and do the things that he has done. He has given us a chance to win. Even Sunday. Sunday was just a weird game, to be honest with you. You know, we were thinking about that game and the next day and the next day. The way that scoreboard was working, you know, you look up and it's 0-0, like 20-1, and I always felt Seattle was going to come back in that game because that's what they did. So you have to think about that one and the next one.

I think he has been solid. We talk about the change-up. I don't think the change-up is where he wants to, but he felt like this week he made a few adjustments that might play tomorrow, but velocity-wise I think velocity will be there tomorrow, and I think the slider will be there tomorrow, and he is going to give us a chance to win the game.

MODERATOR: Alex, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

ALEX CORA: Thank you.

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