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October 14, 2021

Alex Cora

Houston, Texas, USA

Minute Maid Park

Boston Red Sox

Workout Day Press Conference

ALEX CORA: We're going Chris. We're going Nate. Chris is starting Game 1. Nate is starting Game 2.

Q. How did you know? Am I that protectable? What went into the decision?

ALEX CORA: Just the whole series. It's a seven-game series. You have to win four. Everybody has to be part of this. We feel comfortable with Chris with the rest that he got. And obviously giving Nate one more day is going to benefit. The off day, the structure of the bullpen tomorrow, so we should be okay.

Q. Hi, Alex. I'm going to ask this in English and Spanish, and if you don't mind answering in both. I see you have your Criollos hat on. Lots of Puerto Rican presence in this series. You are close to the guys on the Astros. Obviously, Christian and Enrique just did some big things for you. What does that mean to you?

(Question in Spanish)

ALEX CORA: I'm very proud of all of them. Obviously, I got a job to do. You know, I'm the manager of the Red Sox. But besides that, what Carlos is doing from afar is eye-opening. Something that our baseball community when he got drafted we expected. He was going to grow into this type of player, this type of leader, and let's see what the future holds, right?

With Christian and Enrique, they've been solid throughout the season. You know, both of them in the playoffs, they were great. They love playing the game. They enjoy playing the game. You know, for them to be on this stage means a lot not only for them but for all of us, and hopefully some of them, they have good series. Others, you know, they don't or other. But it's great for our baseball, so, like I said, I'm very proud of them, and obviously, they've been performing at a high level.

(Answering in Spanish)

Q. Alex, I think Chris just pitched three-plus innings over the last two weeks. How much do you feel like you can get out of him tomorrow?

ALEX CORA: The goal is for a regular start, so there's no limitations. Like I said, we're not going to pitch him if we don't feel comfortable. At one point we had to pitch him. It just happened that he is pitching Game 1, so he is a regular start for him.

Q. Have you seen enough from him with the adjustments in different things over the last week or so to -- I guess what made you comfortable to do this?

ALEX CORA: It's Chris Sale. At one point he had to pitch in this series, and we're very comfortable with him going tomorrow. I think the structure of the series and the structure of our bullpen tomorrow is going to be -- we're going to be aggressive regardless. I don't expect him to come out in the first inning. I expect him to go out there and pitch a good game and give us a chance to win. You got to trust everybody in this roster. We got 26 guys that they have to do a job for us to advance to the World Series, and he is one of them. And that's the reason he is pitching tomorrow, and then Nate will follow him.

Q. He's not an opener? He's a starter?

ALEX CORA: No, we're not doing the opener thing.

I mean, we're not doing it tomorrow.

Q. What was the conversation like with Chris knowing the way he is?

ALEX CORA: Somebody took a picture yesterday of it. You know, I was walking from the bullpen, and I said you got Game 1 and you got Game 2. Very simple. You know, like, there's no RAH-RAH speech. We need you. No, no, no. He is a big part of what we're trying to accomplish. And we talked about it during the day as a group, as a coaching staff, and the front office, and we all came to the conclusion that this is the best way it start the series.

You know, it's a seven-game series. It's not a five-game series, so you have to be very careful with the way you use your bullpen. You have to be on point. If you are going to be aggressive the way we're going to be -- and I do believe the structure is going to help us to use some guys tomorrow if we need them. Hey, if we don't, awesome, you know. He can go seven and then flip the ball to somebody and then the other one gets to inning 7 and move forward.

But, you know, if we need to go to Nick or Eduardo, Tanner, obviously, we are going to be aggressive, and this is the best way for us to structure the series.

Q. You guys are human beings. What do you think this means to him with all that he has been through and everything else?

ALEX CORA: Pretty similar to David Price against -- he struggled against New York, right, in 2018, and we gave him the ball against the Astros. It just happened that it was -- Game 2, I think it was, right? But these guys, they work so hard at their craft that sometimes people forget that, yeah, they're still good. You know, you're going to have good days and you're going to have bad days.

And hopefully for us, you know, the struggles against the Rays, obviously, we're not going to face them this year, so that's in the past. We are working with him throughout all this time to make him better and he feels great, so we'll give him the ball tomorrow, and see where it takes us.

Q. I know you touched on it a little, but Carlos has talked quite a bit about it now. Your relationship with him, what that means to you. And what is that like when -- as he said, you're the enemy when he crosses the white lines. What is it like facing him, the whole gambit?

ALEX CORA: We still got, what, 12 hours of texting or talking, whatever. We disconnect. I mean, him, Alex, MartĂ­n, Yuli, I stay in touch with them. Like in 12 hours it's over, you know. This is business. Some of those guys I appreciate. I love the fact that they're performing. And they've been behind me for a long, long time.

Carlos, like I said, he means a lot. I text his dad today, this morning, like this is what we envisioned a few years ago. The leader. You know, there's a lot of conviction behind him. He is very firm on what he believes, and he is a great player. And you're not 1-1 in the draft because you're lucky. You're 1-1 because you're good and people expect you to be great, and that's what he is. He is a great player. I actually saw him doing some stuff for Fox over there, modeling. He likes that stuff. You know, he digs himself. He has been great. He has been great, and I'm proud of him.

Like I said in '18, I don't throw the ball, I don't hit. You know, he is the one that has to face our pitchers, and he has to play defense, so we'll see where it takes us. But regardless of what happened in the series, you know, our relationship is going to be great. He means a lot to me, and I'm very proud of him.

Q. Are you kind of busting his chops to get the modeling quote in there?

ALEX CORA: He loves it. No doubt about it. He loves it.

Q. Alex, Darwinzon throwing that live BP yesterday at Fenway, and you mentioned this Astros lineup and roster being different than the Rays, and how will you maybe approach that bullpen-wise with different guys you might bring in?

ALEX CORA: We're getting close to make decisions. We have to talk to the players first. There are some decisions that are based on who they are and what they do. Their platoon splits, they're not too different. Their lefties hit lefties, and the righties, they hit everybody. We're getting close to making a decision. We're getting close to get our 26-man roster. We just have to talk to them, and you guys will have it tomorrow at 9:00, I think it is, yeah.

Q. What has it meant to you to attain this level of success in your first year back after the suspension?

ALEX CORA: I mean, in my press conference I look washed out, so...

I still have it. I still have the passion of the game. I learned a lot the last 24 months about me and my family and the people that surround me, my support group, and they've been amazing. We got people flying all over the place for this, and I don't mind that because for a long period of time they've been there on the ups and the downs, and I appreciate that. It wasn't easy coming in, obviously, but I love this game.

I know that on a daily basis I'm going to give my best, and I'm still enjoying it regardless of how it looks. You know? It's been a roller coaster on the field, off the field this season, but we are where we are. And like I said yesterday, we woke up, we're, like, four games away from the World Series. We win four, and we're right there.

I'm enjoying this. I am enjoying the group. I think honestly as a team, we are clicking at the right time, and as a group, we're clicking at the right time. Those guys are having a blast. You know, this is what it's all about. There's going to be four teams at the end of the night, right, for a chance to play in the World Series. It doesn't matter how you get here. It's just a matter what you do from here on, and we're prepared for it.

Q. Alex, when you have Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi lined up for your first two starters, no one would suggest that starting pitching is not important, but I think you can probably make the argument that maybe now more than ever bulk relievers are as important in the postseason when you look at what Pivetta has done, what Houck has done. One following a great start; another following one that wasn't very good.

Do you trace any of that back to what you did in 2018? Where do you think that kind of started to turn where multiple inning relief arms became almost, if not as, important as starters in the postseason?

ALEX CORA: We did it out of necessity, right? We found out around this time, 4:15, that Steven wasn't going to be part of it. And Brad and Dana, they sprint to the dugout, and they are, like, hey, Steven Wright is out. And at that point we thought Steven was going to be our bulk guy, our ace reliever, whatever you want to call it.

And when they told me, I turned around and there was Nate and there was Rick. They were right there. I was, like, hey, you guys are in the bullpen today, and we just started doing it. You know, I think Porcello set the tempo in that eighth inning against the Yankees, and from then on I think it's a group thing.

I still remember when we came here for Game 3, David was in the training room, and he told me, he is, like, I'm in the bullpen today, and he just pitched Game 2. I'm, like, no, no, no, not today. He is, like, yeah, I'll be in the bullpen. The willingness for them to do this is what makes it happen. And obviously, like I always said, the medical staff have done an amazing job throughout the season to get them to this point, and they are strong, and they're willing to do it, and we will do it. You know?

I always said that, you know, you play today and tomorrow might rain. If it rains here, it doesn't matter. We have a roof. You try to win the game that you play today, and then after that you make adjustments, but knowing that we have Tanner and we have Garrett and we have Nick, and we have Eduardo, and these guys who -- you know, MartĂ­n -- they can give us multiple innings. And it's not just multiple innings. It's quality innings and good matchups for us.

So that's the way we do it. That's the way we feel about it. I know there's other organizations that they don't agree with it, but at the end of the day, you don't get too many chances to win the World Series, right, or get to this point, so I think you have to maximize your opportunity, and that's what we try to do.

Q. (Question in Spanish)

ALEX CORA: (Answer in Spanish)

Q. Alex, these are two franchises that they're playing for their third time in the playoffs since 17. There's been a lot of winning, and there's been all the off-the-field issues, which you know well. What does this say about the state of baseball or specifically these two franchises that they both been able to find a way with everything they've been through to be back on this stage?

ALEX CORA: Very talented players. When you look at the rosters, you know, there's star power, right. But at the same time if you look at the other players, they come from within the farm system, and that's what good teams do, good organizations do. Obviously, I think coming into the season it was a little different, right. But the boys, they bought into the concept and understood we had a good team, and we had to work for everything that we were trying to accomplish.

And here we are. But we have star power. That helps. The two shortstops in this series are really good. Rafi Devers is one of the best third basemen in the big leagues. Yuli Gurriel, one of the best first basemen in the big league. Michael Brantley, what a hitter. MartĂ­n Maldonado -- by the way, I didn't talk about MartĂ­n. Sorry. Yeah. He is going to be mad at me.

MartĂ­n is one of the best defensive catchers in the Big Leagues. Christian, an all-around catcher, right, and he has done amazing things. He is good defensively and offensively. You go around the diamond, and there's star power, and I think people should enjoy that. You don't see so many good players in one field. Obviously, it's different because it's the ALCS, you know, and teams are going to be good, but star power-wise, this is a good one. Those two shortstops are pretty good.

Q. With your history with the Astros and your relationships with them, what's the feeling like being against them again with the trip to the World Series on the line?

ALEX CORA: Same feeling as '18. They're a good team. A complete team, and our job here is to win four before they win four, you know, and we respect them. They're very talented. What they have accomplished the last few years has been outstanding to see, but at the end of the day, you know, we have our goals, you know. And like I was saying in Spanish, the underdog and this and that and whatever. You know, at this point if you need motivation to move forward, you're in the wrong business. It doesn't matter what they say or he said or whatever. It doesn't matter. Now it's about winning four games. Our motivation is win four games because if you win four games, you move on to the next round.

Q. Alex, I'm curious your perspective. This team takes a lot of abuse on the road, and obviously the Red Sox fans when you go back to Boston are going to bring it. Knowing your history here --

ALEX CORA: I already talked about it during the season. If feels weird because I was part of it. I made a mistake and paid the consequences. I'm still paying the consequences. I addressed this during the season, and if you get booed because you are a great player, yeah, I understand that. But certain people obviously they don't like them because of what we did in 2017, so that part, you know, for me is a little bit hard, but, you know, it's what we did. We put ourselves in this situation.

And for those that think it's in the past, no, we live it every day. We live it every day. I live it every day. I mean, we made a mistake, and we're paying the price. For the fans to let them know how they feel, I understand. I live it, you know. Not as loud as they get it, but I get it on the road all the time. It's weird, right, because I was part of it, but like I said, I've been addressing this the whole season. I haven't hidden. I'm here. I've been talking about it.

Hopefully, hopefully, people will talk about the players and what they do and the talent that is on the field. I can handle this. You know, I've been doing it for, what, 12 months or a year and a half. I've been able to deal with this. Like I said, you know, I'm sorry. I made a mistake, you know, and I'm living it. So it's uncomfortable because I know that when they get booed or they scream at them, I'm there. I was part of that, so it just happens.

Q. Alex, you've obviously have a long-standing relationship with Kiké Hernández. When you were watching him in the postseason earlier in his career, how much did that frame your sense of the player he could become?

ALEX CORA: Oh, I mean, he likes playing in October. We've seen it from afar, right? He had three home runs against the Cubs. The home run last year to tie Game 7 against the Braves. He even hit a home run against us in '18. Probably hit a home run against us in '17 too. Watching him, you know, that close and understanding what he brings to the equation on a daily basis, it means a lot.

I've known this kid since he was 9, 10. And then to see him grow into the player that he is, it's gratifying. I think I've been using that word for a while here. He sees the game. He understands the game. When he talks the game, he is certain about the things that he says. You know, talking about stats and swings and percentages. Talking about nutrition and workout regimen and all that stuff. It's kind of like the guy that you envision as a manager, as a coach that can help everybody else around you, and he has done that since day one. So it's been fun to watch, and, I mean, this is where he started, right, his career. He has been going back and forth against these guys for a few years too, so it should be fun for him.

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