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December 5, 2022

Alex Cora

San Diego, California, USA

Boston Red Sox

Press Conference

Q. Alex, obviously hearing all the rumors about the shortstops, sounds like Trea is going to Phillies. How much is the Xander thing weighing on your mind whether he's going to be back or not?

ALEX CORA: I mean, obviously we know where we're at. We know what we have done the last few months as far as like dealing with Xander and Scott and everything that comes with the territory. We've been very open about it. And obviously he earned the right to become a free agent. I think he's doing everything that he has to do to make a decision right in the future.

And hopefully that decision includes the Boston Red Sox. I think we've been very honest, very genuine, very transparent about the whole thing. But it's a process, just like Turner's was a process, and Correa, and Swanson, the same thing.

Part of the process is meeting with teams. We're doing that with other guys, too. We're meeting with players. And you want to know who they are. They want to know who the organization is and all that stuff.

I bet Xander is curious about what other teams have to offer. So we'll see where it takes us. We stay in touch.

The other day the Netherlands were playing U.S.A., and he's texting me about the game. Actually going to Arizona in the upcoming days and hopefully I can see him there.

I'm going to go see Kike and Nick and Ref (phonetic), Bobby and J.T. He's working out in Arizona. If we can set up a lunch or something, we'll do it. We probably won't talk business. We'll talk about life.

That's the beauty of this stuff, that there's a business side of it; there's the personal side of it. But going back to the business side of it is the one you care about. We're engaged, which is the most important thing.

Like I said before, hopefully the future of Xander Bogaerts is with the Boston Red Sox and the future of the Boston Red Sox is with Xander Bogaerts.

Q. Do you feel you're putting your best foot forward?

ALEX CORA: I can't talk about the other teams, which foot they have put out there, but I think we've done a good job in the process to put ourselves where we're at.

Q. How much have you thought through what life would be like without Xander and what the alternative would be at shortstop?

ALEX CORA: I think at the end of the day life with Xander or without Xander, it has to be better anyways. We're not depending on one guy. We've got to do a lot of work in the offseason. And obviously the conversation is going to be about Xander, but I think the conversation should be about what are we going to do to be better.

And for us to move forward, obviously we've been talking about Xander the whole time. But we've got to be realistic, too.

There's a chance that he won't be back because he made the decision to go somewhere else and we still have to be ready. And if he signs with us, comes back with us, we've still got work to do.

I think the way I see it, the way the organization sees it, regardless of what happens, we've still got to keep pushing to be better. We finished last last year. That's the bottom line. And there's a lot of things we have to do to be better.

One of the things, like, to sign more good players. And we're in the process of doing that. Just talking to players, doing our homework, and spending all the energy to do that.

So obviously there's a process throughout. There's not too many guys that have signed so far in the free agency, whatever you want to call it, offseason, whatever. So like I said, we've just got to be better. And I think we're in the process of doing that.

Q. You've been viewed as the recruiting tool in the past to visit the players and try to sell them on coming here. Have you done that at all prior to arriving in San Diego this winter?

ALEX CORA: We have talked to a lot of players. And we're still in the process of talking to players in the next few days. And that's what I'm here for. I don't want to finish last. I want to win the division, make it to the playoffs and have fun again.

And like I told Hime (phonetic), and the players have told Hime, Trevor and Kike and Nick and guys that have been there the last few years, we'll help you. And Trevor is the guy that actually caught my attention last year towards the end.

We had a meeting with the guys and he said that what we did during the process, it helped him to make a decision. And he wants to pay it forward.

So I'm glad that he offered himself to do this. Obviously Kike has been on winning teams and have a lot of connections. I think he's one of the players that have more contacts in his phone from other players. So using them as recruiting tools, it's always helpful.

Q. You said you were last place last year. Free agents don't always want to go to a team that's coming off a (indiscernible) season. Does that sort of networking, using players, do you have to work a little bit harder right now to establish Boston as a free agents want to come?

ALEX CORA: I believe you take the emotions out of it and you break out the season the right way. And I know John was here right now, right? And just a quick reminder they beat us 17 out of 19 times.

If you take that away, of course we cannot do that, we become a playoff team. For how far it looks, how bad it looks, if you start breaking it down, the way I've done it the last two or three months, yeah, we've got work to do, but we're not as bad as we played last year. I think at one point during the season we were 10 games over .500. We got to Chicago July 3rd and everything happened.

And obviously we were short in personnel. There's a lot of stuff we didn't do during the season, but at the same time, kind of like going into '21, like, yeah, the organization finished last, but you could see that there were pieces. And I was just talking about our rotation, our pitching staff.

You talk about Bello and Houck and Whitlock, you're playing somewhere else, you're like, wow, there's upside there -- the young kicks, the young guns.

But we play in a market where the expectations are high and the pressure of the fan base and the media and everybody that's involved is part of it, right? And those three kids are really good.

And then you've got Pivetta who is a good pitcher and has to be better. We have (indiscernible). He has to be healthy. Of course there's a lot of question marks, a lot of red flags, but I do believe we're going to be in a good spot. And obviously there's a plan in place, and we're trying to execute it. Sometimes there's guys that are going to sign with other teams.

There's others that are going to sign with us, and we'll see where we're at in February. And we go from there.

Q. Talked about the upside and (indiscernible) the rotation. Have you all talked about anything out of box about managing workloads amongst starters?

ALEX CORA: I mean, obviously if Pax is back we'll see where we're at, what we're going to do. I think we have to wait until the whole offseason happens and then we go from there.

But there's a lot of stuff that we can actually do as far as like being efficient with the guys and take care of them.

We always talk about April and May, months that we take care of guys, but it seems like this year we've got to be smarter. Tanner comes in surgery. Whitlock coming from surgery. Chris, where he's at. Pax, coming from where he's at. Brad and Brandon and the whole Michael (phonetic) staff, they're going to put a plan in place and we'll execute it.

Q. You talked about upside and rest with the rotation (indiscernible) guys you have now. Do you feel like you need another established (indiscernible)?

ALEX CORA: I think we will get a starter. I think we're talking to a few of them. And we will get a starter.

I think the deeper we are, the better we're going to be. And we saw it last year. At one point we were really, really good from the mound and then we were short.

And hopefully that doesn't happen next year. And for that not to happen, you know, we need to add some arms. So we're in the process of talking to a lot of guys. There's a lot of people out there that they're very talented and they're really, really good. And hopefully we can get one or two of those guys and we can be deeper.

Q. Where is Chris at?

ALEX CORA: Chris is in (indiscernible) -- he's doing good. Moving well, doing everything. So so far so good in the offseason.

Q. Are you expecting him to be able to get himself prepared as a starter and be ready to go?

ALEX CORA: The plan right now is for that, to be a starter.

Q. Has he started throwing?

ALEX CORA: I think he starts throwing next week in his program, yes.

Q. What were your thoughts on having Whitlock be a starter?

ALEX CORA: I do believe for him physically is the right thing to do. We always talk about him being a weapon in the bullpen and everything that he did.

But I think every five days for him is going to be -- is the correct thing to do.

His stuff is going to play. There's going to be some growing pains because he hasn't done it in a while and we saw it, right? Teams are going to make adjustments, all that.

But if you go six innings and they score three runs, I think you're pretty good. That's what we expect out of him.

Q. As far as Gerrett and Tanner go, where are they at in their recoveries right now?

ALEX CORA: Right now everything is trending in a positive way. Actually Tanner is in West Palm Beach at that training facility. Everything is good.

I talked to him a few days ago -- actually three days ago. So everything so far so good.

With Whit, I do believe the way he's moving is trending in the right direction. Obviously we've got to be careful with that one. It's not that easy just to go from that surgery just to pose or get on the mound. But I believe everything will be fine he'll be fine with spring training.

Q. When you look at Rodriguez and -- the bullpen in the mix, do you feel like you have it's already a much improved group from last year?

ALEX CORA: Like I said, we're going to add guys. We need to do that. If you look at our season last year, it was a struggle to get 27 outs, and the quality of the arms are going to be okay. Rodriguez is a good one. His change-up plays. He has a good sinker. We've got to get him to throw more strikes. But we feel pretty confident thinking he can do the job. With that, that's all I can talk about right now.

Q. How much time are you going to have to spend in spring training getting your players ready for all the rule changes?

ALEX CORA: I'll know on Wednesday. We've got a big meeting here. We're going to talk about it. One of the things in our case going into spring training, there's a lot of guys that are planning on playing in the tournament. So they're going to be away.

And that's not good for our group. But we'll make adjustments. One of the things that we talk about is not complain about the rules, is take advantage of the rules. We've got to be good defensively without shifting. We've got to be a lot better at running the bases without the throw-overs and all that stuff.

So we'll take advantage of that. We'll try to be more athletic to do that. But I think on Wednesday we're going to go over a lot of stuff here with MLB and all the gray areas and the stuff that we kind of, like, don't understand. We'll get clarified and then we'll go from there.

Q. There's still something you're not sure of?

ALEX CORA: No, it's just a few things with the pitch clock and disengagements, all that stuff that -- obviously new set of rules. It's a new game. Just to understand a few things, and then go from there.

And still, when we get to spring training, there's going to be some adjustments to make.

Q. Are they going to start with spring training games right away, the new rules --

ALEX CORA: I believe that's going to be the case, yes. Should be.

Q. Ramon moved up to bench coach?


Q. What will you do with the other spot in your staff?

ALEX CORA: We're talking about it. It might be from the organization, within the organization, if we want to, or somebody from outside. We might actually move somebody to first base coaching job from the staff. We're not there yet. We're talking about it.

Q. What did you like about Ramon in that role? And did you consider naming him an associate manager or giving him another title?

ALEX CORA: Actually Ramon was going to be on the bench anyways. So just first things first, like happy for Will. I do believe it's a great opportunity for him to learn from Boch and be in that situation.

Obviously he knows C.Y. He's got a great relationship. And we're very proud of him. We're very happy with him the last two years here as far as organizing spring training and keeping engaged. And the communication with the front office was amazing. So we wish him luck against the rest of the American League.

And with Ramon, he's just a special baseball mind. And we started playing 1996 in (indiscernible). And for us to be in front of us this program it means a lot. It means a lot to us and I know he's very excited.

Ramon doesn't talk too much. And he doesn't show too much emotion, but if you see him now, you talk to him now, he's very excited about this.

This is a guy that I do believe at one point he's going to manage in the big leagues. Now it's just a matter of him do the things that he has to do as a bench coach and help us to be better. And he will do that.

Q. When you look at the lineup and just the offense and some of the inconsistencies last year, what are you hoping to kind of get out of them this year and maybe what you guys can add this winter that will make it a better group overall?

ALEX CORA: I think we did a good job in September as far as, like, on-base percentage and working counts and all that stuff.

If you look at the numbers, Rafi, even Rafi, he took his walks. Kike, his on-base percentage was better. Obviously Casas is a different at-bat. He helps that. And the two catchers were amazing.

We just gotta make sure we're very consistent with our approach, to not deviate from the process. And it's a tough league and a league that has elite stuff. 2-0 is not the hitter's count. 2-0 is kind of like an 0-2 count. You have to control the strike zone.

Not saying we're getting back to '03, '04, '05, we can have five-hour games, grinding our bats and all that stuff. But I think if you work the count to your advantage and you can take advantage of certain counts, you're going to be okay.

In September, if you look at the numbers, I think we led the league in on-base percentage, which it was really good. And obviously having Trevor healthy is going to be a plus. When he was healthy and swinging the bat well, we were one of the best offenses in the big league.

So we'll see what happens in the offseason. But I think on-base percentage guys and athletic guys, yeah, they're good.

Q. You've mentioned the athleticism a couple of times now this offseason. How has that sort of played into the roster construction, especially the guys that you protected for the Rule 5 this week?

ALEX CORA: I think it's something that the game is going to go towards that, of course, without the shifting and obviously with the base running and stuff.

I think that's something that if you look around the league, and always the teams that are at the end, right, playing in that World Series, they're very athletic.

They're really good defending. They're really good running the bases. You look at the Astros, for how great they are, you look at the athletes, they're really good. You look at the Phillies, you saw what -- if that's true, you saw what they did. They got one of the best athletes in the Big Leagues.

So this is the way the game is going. I think it's the right way to go. Like it should be a very dynamic game. People to enjoy it. And hopefully we can accomplish that and then be better in that area, and hopefully it can help us to win more games.

Q. It was a priority for the guys you protected for the Rule 5?

ALEX CORA: They're just good athletes, just happens that they're really good. Just fast, good defenders. Obviously there's a few things that they still have to work on. But I think overall we did a good job protecting the right guys and we're in a good spot.

Q. How do you view first base obviously right now with --

ALEX CORA: We've got the whole situation with Eric and we've got Casas. And I think the offseason is going to take care of that.

We think highly of both of them. We traded for Eric last year with that whole situation. And he got hurt. But we see him as a veteran that can put a good at-bat and he's a good defender.

With Casas, obviously the offseason or the, whatever, winter bowl season didn't go the way we wanted. And with the knee thing, I think more repetitions we're going to help him out especially in that environment. So hopefully he recovers the right way, ready to go to Spring Training, and we'll see what happens when we make the right decisions.

Q. Does that concern you at all, lower body injuries to his ankle?

ALEX CORA: Something we need to talk about. He's a big dude. He's still a kid. Still growing. One of the things that we did in our exit meetings, Kiyoshi talked to him about like you see the power. There's more there. But obviously the body's going to change.

And we've been on top of him as far as like his offseason, I think rest was good for him in a sense, right, because obviously where he was physically, but now there's a few things, adjustments-wise, that he needs to do in the offseason as far as like plyometrics and all that stuff.

He's a good athlete for how big he is. But, of course, we want to keep him healthy. So they're going to make adjustments and see how the offseason goes. Kiyoshi has been -- if I've been traveling, he's been traveling more than me. He went to see Rafi in DR and he's actually seen Dugie today. He's been on top of it. But we need to keep him healthy for him to produce, and hopefully we can make adjustments for that to happen.

Q. What does that mean in terms of him for the tournament?

ALEX CORA: The WBC, Casas?

Q. Yes.

ALEX CORA: I don't know if he's going to make it. He's on the list for us or for team Puerto Rico. We play them so we've got to beat them. But I'm not sure if he's going to be on the active roster.

Q. With what you were just talking about with him, would he be better served to be in Spring Training?

A. We'll talk about it. We'll talk about it. I think obviously I have a pretty good idea who is going to make the team, who is not going to make the team. We'll get there when we get there.

Q. You said something earlier about Ramon was going to be on the bench anyway. Were you re-shuffling things? Were you going to reshuffle things anyway even if Will didn't leave?

ALEX CORA: We were talking about it. Obviously he did a good job at first base, but I think there's value with him on the bench. So at one point we talked about it, yeah, there's a good chance -- he was going to be with us on the bench, probably -- I don't want to say quality control coach or whatever they call it, that role, I don't want to -- that one, but there was a good chance he was going to be on the bench.

Q. In terms of international market free agency, have you ever had a Japanese pitcher like (indiscernible) or (indiscernible)? If you have what's your --

ALEX CORA: I don't think I'm allowed to talk about international free agents until they're posted.

Q. Do you have any impressions --

ALEX CORA: I think the only impressions I have, there's a few Japanese pitchers in Puerto Rico pitching for Carolina. They're really good, by the way.

Q. You talk about power, and do you think you need to add a power bat or healthy story in Kike? Is there power within that can come out?

ALEX CORA: I think a healthy Story and a healthy Kike will help. I think to Dugie can do that, although we prefer him to hit 50 doubles. I think Rafi at one point the way his season was going and he got hurt, you saw it. Of course on a daily basis, I say that, yeah, he's great, he's doing okay, all that, but you saw him running, you saw him with his swing and all that stuff.

It's amazing because the previous year it was his elbow. Last year were his legs. If you don't have your legs you're not going to drive the ball.

And I think it was a challenge for him. But the way he finished the season, he tells you it was going to happen in the future.

And when he controls the strikes on the way he did, the power is going to be off the charts in my opinion. I think Tristan will hit homers, but I think of course let's see what happens with the roster, but Kike healthy is going to help and Trevor healthy will help.

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