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October 16, 2021

Alex Cora

Houston, Texas, USA

Minute Maid Park

Boston Red Sox

Pregame 2 Press Conference

Q. Just a thought on Nate, what you have seen from him this postseason and kind of what you're hoping for today.

ALEX CORA: The same thing. He has been solid throughout the season. He has evolved as a pitcher and is a guy that we trusted from day one, right? He takes his job very seriously. His preparation is second to none, and it should be a fun day for him. I bet there's a lot of family members that are going to be around pulling for him, and hopefully it's a good day for us.

Q. Just a follow-up. How has he evolved from the pitcher that you saw in '18 to where he is now?

ALEX CORA: When we got him, stuff-wise everybody knew what he had. It was funny because everybody was talking about us getting a reliever, and we went the other way around. We got a starter. But we got both at the end. He became a starter and a reliever. And just the breaking ball now and the split, they're a lot better. I think in '18 it was more cutters, four-seamers, and an occasional breaking ball. So he has a lot of weapons now, and they all play on a daily basis, so I think that's the difference. Always throwing strikes. He has always been very aggressive.

I think he learned a lot in '19. We put him in a tough spot for him to be successful coming out of injury, putting him in the bullpen, and so on and so on. Last year you could see from afar how his stuff played in the zone, and that's the thing. He gets people out in the strike zone too.

Q. What do you like about Schwarber in that lead-off spot today?

ALEX CORA: We've been doing that against righties. We ran into this lineup out of necessity. J.D. got hurt the last day of the season, so for the Yankees game we were trying to figure out how we were going to, quote/unquote, protect Rafi. And the only way we can do that was put in Kyle leading off, Kiké hitting second, and Rafi third, and Xander behind him, and Dugie hit fifth.

Then, we ended up with J.D. hitting sixth out of necessity too because when he decided to play, we were, like, well, if he doesn't play the whole game, we don't want to disrupt the middle of the lineup, so we decided to hit him sixth, and it feels good. This is a lineup that there's a lot of balance. Kyle, he is an on base percentage machine. He grinds out at-bats, and sets the table for everybody else, and at the same time might be one pitch, 1-0 us.

Q. If you don't have to use Nick today, are you looking at him as a potential starter for one of the games in Boston?

ALEX CORA: We'll get there when we get there. We're not going to name a starter for Game 3. We'll see where we go or how it goes today, and we'll go from there.

Q. There are eight Puerto Ricans on both dugouts and coaches.

ALEX CORA: How many?

Q. Eight Puerto Ricans and nine including Cristian. What do you think of that? Have you noticed that, and what does that mean to you?

ALEX CORA: I know that. I'm very proud of each one of them. What Correa has done is amazing. Espada, we'll see what the future holds. He has been in the running to become a Big League manager the last three or four years, and I believe at one point he will be a Big League manager. Cintron, he has been solid with them throughout the time he spent with them coming in in 2017 as a translator, and now he is their hitting coach, so he has got to that point very quick, and I'm very, very proud of him.

Our guys, Cristian and Kiké, they've been amazing. Arroyo too, he is not afraid to say he is one of us. That's good. And Ramón is another guy that I think with time people will understand what he brings to the equation and what type of manager he can be. I do believe his baseball knowledge is second to none. His preparation is very important to what we do on a daily basis. He means a lot to those guys in the clubhouse, and I do believe with time people are going to start giving us some phone calls ask for permission for him to interview because I do believe he has it. He can become a very successful Big League manager?

Q. And just on the field --

ALEX CORA: Martín. I always forget Martín. Martín, he has been solid, man. Different path, right, his career, but I think he has found a home. You can see what he does on a daily basis with that pitching staff. What he brings to the equation offensively, it is what it is. I bet they don't care. He puts good at-bats, but what he does behind the plate and the preparation, the connection with Strommy is second to none, and he has been good.

Q. At least just on the field, I think there was a little bit of a lull in terms of development, but the last few years I think the number has gone up in towards of Puerto Rican-born players in the Majors. Do you know why maybe that's the case?

ALEX CORA: We don't have time for that one, and I might get in trouble if I tell what I feel about it. I think we haven't made the adjustment about the draft. That's the bottom line. People can say that that is the obstacle for us not to produce more players, but the draft has been there forever. We have to do a better job preparing our student-athletes -- talking about high schoolers -- to be prepared to get actually scholarships at Division I schools, and if we do that, then the draft plays to our advantage, right?

A lot of kids, especially now what the draft is, they're going to sign for, what, $20,000 because they have no options, and I don't think we do a good job in high school preparing these kids to what really matters, which is trying to get an education, right? And then when you have that, then the business side of it comes into play, and we haven't done a good job. Most of our kids that go to college nowadays, they don't go to Division I schools. They go to Jucos or Division III schools, and then they don't stay there. I think we have to do a better job with that back home.

Q. So Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa have been two of the best shortstops in the league for a while now. What exactly is it about the two of them that makes them so successful, and is it something they have in common, or are they both great in different ways?

ALEX CORA: First of all, physically they're freak athletes, both of them. Offensively they impact the baseball like no other shortstops, right? They understand their strength. They understand their weaknesses. They work too. You see Correa in the offseason and what he does, and what Xander has been doing since he got to the Big Leagues in 2013. It's nonstop with them. They enjoy the game. They talk the game. They love the game. It's very important. They're not afraid of the spotlight.

They enjoy the spotlight differently. I think Carlos, he shows his emotions more than Xander. But at the end of the day, their willingness to make their teammates better, to make their teams and organization better is similar, and both of them are really, really good.

Q. How can you describe the impact José Iglesias has made on the team, not only on the field, but now that he's kind of hanging around?

ALEX CORA: He is doing a good job with the Cards. I'll tell you that. He's gotten better. The first time he pushed it, he almost hurt Kyle, I want to say. All kidding aside, besides what he did in September, which was very impressive. Without him, I don't know if we're here, but communication, understanding the game, watching the game, staying locked in, the guy, he has been great.

I hate to say this because I know he is going to play for more years, but I know the coach in our team right now, and that's his job, right? He is here. He knows he is going to play, so somehow some way he has to make an impact. He feels that way, and that's what he is doing. He has been amazing, and I love the fact that he is always talking baseball. He enjoys it, and I know he wants to win a World Series ring, and he is doing his part.

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