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October 8, 2021

Alex Cora

St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Tropicana Field

Boston Red Sox

Pregame 2 Press Conference

Q. Alex, this is a question from the Boston Patch, and they wanted to ask you all if you do win tonight's game against the Rays, you'll definitely be playing in Game 4 in Boston on the Boston Marathon Monday, and this is the first time since the pandemic began that the Boston Marathon will take place, and, also, there's the tragic date of the Boston marathon --

ALEX CORA: There's a chance we wear the yellow uniforms?

Q. Well, what does this mean to you all, basically, is --

ALEX CORA: It's getting ahead of ourselves, but actually, I was talking to Kike about it, how special that day is early in the season, what it means to everybody in the area. Obviously, we know what happened in '13, right. But as a player, it was great. It was a great day. Just walking to Fenway and to be part of it, the fact that Tito always put me to play. You know, I always played that 11:00 a.m. game to rest the horses of the team. It was cool because I would get four at-bats regardless.

But it's a special day for everybody, and, yeah, I mean, that's the goal, right, to play two at home, and it should be a very special day for us.

Q. (Several questions in Spanish).

Alex, with Verdugo, what's impressed you most about his development, and where do you think he could still get better as he gets older?

ALEX CORA: I think Alex learned a lot this season. The grind of 162, and he did an amazing job. Especially late in the season. There was a rough patch there. I think it was in August, if I'm not mistaken, right? He struggled against lefties this year, but towards the end, he -- yesterday he put some great at-bats against the lefty, and he has been a lot better lately.

He will hit for power with time. I think those doubles are going to turn into home runs. As long as he doesn't try. You know, we've been through that in the past before with some players, right. But we like the fact that he can hit doubles, he can hit for average. We can hit him anywhere in the lineup. I think he settled down actually hitting where he is at now, and that started in Buffalo.

With Dugey, you try to find something stat-wise that you can throw out there, a nugget -- hey, this is going on -- and, he's like, what? Oh, watch, I'll walk today. He has been able to control the at-bats, and he has been a joy to watch. I think physically he is going to get better. He is going to get stronger. He is still a good defender in left field. His arm plays.

He said that this offseason he might go to Drive Line and work on his pitching again because he feels he can throw 97, 98. I guess he used to do that and become a two-way player. We're, like, no, you're not doing that. You're actually getting better physically and you have to take care of yourself and be ready for spring training.

But he is a joy to manage. He is a great kid. He is very passionate about it, and like I said in spring training, he knows himself offensively. He knows his swing. Obviously, the fact that Timmy (Hyers) knows him from the L.A. days, it helps, but he knows his checkpoints, and he makes adjustments on the fly, and it's been cool to manage him.

Q. Does he remind you of Benintendi at all?

ALEX CORA: Yeah, I think the tool set, right? We always felt like Benny could hit .300, hit 40 doubles, hit 20 home runs, steal bases. Being the all-around player that sometimes we don't see nowadays, so he can be the complete package, yeah.

Q. Alex, for years we've seen bullpens with very defined roles, an eighth inning guy, ninth inning guy. The Rays have done it much differently. They don't have a defined closer. Guys could get up at any inning at any time. Obviously, it's worked for them. What do you think of that approach, and do you think we could see that sort of thing happening more and more in baseball?

ALEX CORA: I believe so. I think at the end -- it was funny last year, obviously, watching from afar, you know, and they had their starters and they had their closer at one point, right, and I do believe this year at one point of the season they had their structure. It's just they have so many guys that they move around, right, that one week you have a set of pitchers, and then the next week you have another one, and that's the flexibility they have roster-wise. But I do believe Cashy has structure over there.

Right now for us we had structure early in the season. Just happened that some guys struggled and then got hurt, and this is where we're at right now. But as a manager, you want as many weapons as possible. You try to mix and match and see which spots are good for this guy and that guy, trying to maximize their talent.

But I still believe there's weight in those last three outs of the game, and we as managers, we like structure. We do. Can we adjust? Of course. We used Garrett Richards in the second inning of Game 1 of the ALDS to get Arozarena out because we felt that that was the better matchup for us, for us to move forward. Is it comfortable? No, it's not, but we can adjust and you know your guys and your weapons.

I think October is a lot different than in the regular season. You get the off-days, and that really helps, you know, to be creative and be more aggressive.

Q. Alex, I know the lineup is still in limbo with J.D. tonight, but just wondering, do you know will Kyle lead off against the righty?

ALEX CORA: Yeah, he is leading off. Kike is hitting second, and Rafy is hitting third, Xander is hitting fourth, and then we'll go from there.

Q. Kike was so hot before he went down. Kind of what have you seen from him since he came back? I think he has been able to get back on that same groove yet, or is he still looking for his swing?

ALEX CORA: It's about controlling the strike zone. When he is really good, really hot, he is not expanding in hitter's counts. We knew that early in the season. We saw that, and sometimes he gets to 2-0, 3-1, and what do we want to do in those counts. Obviously he can do damage, but at the same time it has to be in certain areas. He cannot expand because if they throw a fastball, we're going on swing at the fastball because it's a fastball. There's a lot of "fastballs" in that sentence.

But just control the aggression. I think that's the most important thing, and when he does that, that's when he becomes dangerous.

MODERATOR: Thank you so much.

ALEX CORA: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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