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October 10, 2021

Alex Cora

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Fenway Park

Boston Red Sox

Pregame 3 Press Conference

Q. Can you talk about playing at home and how important would the home field advantage be for the Sox?

ALEX CORA: If it's going to be like the Wild Card Game, it should be fun. I think from -- I saw some videos from when Gerrit started warming up all the way to the last pitch of the game, they were into it. They were loud. They had a blast.

So hopefully today and tomorrow -- not hopefully, I know they're going to bring the energy. It should be fun. It should be loud here in Fenway. Hopefully, they can help us win some ballgames.

Q. Can you talk about the offense? Friday Hernandez and Martinez had big games. Can you talk about the offense?

ALEX CORA: I do believe we're doing a better job controlling the strike zone. Since the second part of that game in Washington all the way till the last game in Tampa, we've been hitting the ball hard. We did it against the Nationals, the Yankees, and I think both games against the Rays.

Even though in the first game we only got singles and we didn't walk, we hit the ball hard. By accident, we kind of like found probably our best lineup of the season balance-wise. I say "by accident" because JD gets hurt, so we have to make adjustments against Gerrit. Then because JD wasn't sure if he can go the whole game, we decided to hit him sixth in case we have to pinch-hit for him or take him out of the game.

So by accident, I do believe against righties this is the best alignment that we can have offensive-wise.

Q. You've seen the Rays a lot this season over the course of many games. How would you describe the qualities of the Rays' roster given that they're not constructed with the traditional star power that a casual MLB fan might identify with? What are the qualities you see in this Rays roster that's led to them being this consistent and winning over the course of an entire season?

ALEX CORA: They have good players, good players. Versatile, athletic, understand their roles, and that's what they do from top to bottom, sending a message, and then understanding what it's all about, what they need to do on a daily basis. It's impressive from afar.

Speaking to Chaim throughout the season and him telling me a few things of how they go about their business, from top to bottom, from the Dominican Summer League all the way to the Big Leagues, it's a great program. It's not coincidence that they're in this stage.

Q. How do you think the lack of star players, like traditionally for a casual fan, kind of distorts the conversation around a team like the Rays because they don't have those big names?

ALEX CORA: I'm a fan, and I'm impressed with them. So it all depends how you see it. Obviously, people, they like star power. They like the names, Soto, Tatis, Guerrero, and they like winners too, and that goes across the organization.

Q. Did you think that sort of thing was possible? When you played for the Red Sox, in other words, it was Red Sox, Yankees, big payrolls, those were the powerhouses.

ALEX CORA: Until '08.

Q. Exactly. Their consistent success, does it shock you versus how it used to be when it was Yankees and Red Sox and that was it?

ALEX CORA: It's a combination of a lot of things. You cannot swing and miss in certain areas. International scouting, trades, draft. For how perfect it looks, there's been some up and downs too throughout the years.

They have maximized their resources. They've got some players that other organizations basically gave up on them too. If you look around, Wendle. I still remember Joey, I went to Spring Training, Minor League Spring Training with the Indians in 2013, and it was Urshela, Lindor, Ramirez, Walters the catcher -- he was an infielder, right? And Joey Wendle. You look at him, and he's a great player. He's a championship-caliber player, and what he does offensively, defensively, running the bases, the grit, the way he goes about his business is impressive. I love watching him play because he does it the right way.

The trade with the Cardinals, everybody felt like, well, they give up an arm, but they got some good players over here.

The trade with the Pirates put them on another level.

So they do a good job mixing and matching and maximizing their window. Obviously then you've got guys like Franco that come, and they still have more.

It's a combination of everything, and then for how perfect it looked, like I said before, they have swung and missed, but they learn from those, and they try not to make the same mistakes.

That's a winning organization. They're here for a long time. I don't think it's a window. I just feel it's going to be consistent for a lot of years regardless of who is there and who's not because they do an outstanding job from top to bottom.

Q. I know you've talked about Kevin Cash's kind of path from the Red Sox Minor League system to managing in the Big Leagues, but kind of in general in your experience, what kind of characteristics of that type of player can you see becoming a Big League manager?

ALEX CORA: As far as like teammates or players?

Q. Just what's the DNA a player needs to maybe not be a Big League player full-time but eventually do what Kevin's doing?

ALEX CORA: We're not good enough to play every day, so you have to study the game and try to survive for 13 years. That's the way I see it. You have to do everything possible to be part of a Big League roster. At that time, it was 25. He did an outstanding job preparing, just trying to maximize his talent.

I think behind the plate he had a pretty good idea what he wanted to do. He was a good defensive catcher, great game caller, locked in with the coaching staff, locked in with the star players. In this case, it was Jason, trying to learn from him.

That's what it takes. You've got to learn. It's not that at that point, I want to be a Big League manager, but people start to see you as a guy that can impact an organization in the future because you are impacting that roster in a certain way in a different way than a David Ortiz or a Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez.

Yeah, every team needs those guys, but at the same time, they need other guys to help the program out, and I think that's what Cashy did when he was here. He did it as a coach. After that as a scout, a guy that has a vision. He understands what it takes. He has conviction too. Don't be fooled by Cashy. He laughs and all that, he's a nice guy, but he has a lot of conviction. He's very firm of what he believes, and that's what he's doing over there.

Q. Christian Arroyo, the role he's had for you this year. He's been up and down, and here he is starting in the playoffs for you. What has he meant, and what has he done right?

ALEX CORA: He's been solid when he's on the field. Last year from afar, he had an impact on this team. Obviously, in the off-season, he put in work. I think physically he looks a lot different than what he looked last year or previous year. Offensively, a lot better than what people think. He can impact the baseball.

Defensively, he's been great at second base. We actually saw him kind of like a role player moving around, play third, short, second. At one point, first. That didn't go well, right (laughter)? But the way he turns a play, solid. Very sure-handed, very locked in with Ramon, Carlos and now Fatse as far as positioning.

Obviously, in the small sample size, he was a pretty good defensive second baseman, but I think offensively there's a lot there. You see it little by little. The at-bats are getting better. It was a tough situation towards the end with Jose, but the way Jose played in September, we had to play him. Not only defensively, but offensively he was a force.

He understood that. He's a great teammate, a great kid, and I'm happy that he's able to post now and try to make a difference.

Q. You mentioned Chaim talking to you about some of the foundational stuff. I know you have real scouts, but is there some stuff Chaim could help you with too as far as tendencies or patterning or stuff like that, or inside Cash's brain or anything?

ALEX CORA: Yeah. He knows a lot, right? At the end, it's about execution and doing the thing. I've been saying all along, this game, what, 22, right? There's not too many secrets. The cool thing about the Wild Card Game and this one, the time you spend preparing for the opposition is a lot different than preparing for other teams, let's say the White Sox or Houston.

Here it's kind of like a refreshing course of, yeah, they're doing this and doing this, but we played them so much that there's not too many secrets.

Yeah, he has some information that we use and we take advantage of it.

Q. With regards to Kyle Schwarber, he's obviously had a big impact on the field. What's he been like off the field, in the locker room? What kind of impact has he had there?

ALEX CORA: He's been great, a great teammate. It seems like that group from Chicago, all those kids, they understand what it takes to be a winner. You see them around the league, and now Bryant impacting the Giants and Rizzo with the Yankees and Javy with the Mets and him with us, they know what it takes.

His experience has helped, not only his winning experience but also the other part of it. The struggles and the injuries, and the up and downs, he's been amazing to our group, especially Bobby, I think. He's been great for him.

And the voice and the message, as far as like at-bats and do certain things offensively that can benefit the group, he's been very vocal about it, and we love the fact that he feels like he's been here for ten years. That's not only a testament to who he is, but our group, that they're willing to accept people coming from other teams, obviously in trades, and they embrace them.

So it's been a great relationship.

Q. You've been traded midseason before. How difficult is that to make all the life adjustments that come with it but also still play at a high level?

ALEX CORA: It's hard. The off-the-field part of it is really hard, especially if you get traded for Ramon Vazquez and you're paying X amount of money for a house with a yard and you get traded and he gives you like matchbox, a one bedroom apartment here for the same price, that's the tough part of it. (Laughter).

But, yeah, there's a lot of adjustments. One thing with him -- and I think it's more about this, Fenway, Boston, the passion -- he played in a very similar atmosphere in Chicago. With him, this is not that different. Actually, he's enjoying it. So that part really helped him.

It's the nature of the business. These guys, they understand that they're going to get traded at one point if your team is struggling, if you're a good player, and he embraced the trade, and he's been good for us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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