Every time I listen to Alex Cora speak, I learn something new about the game. As the Red Sox manager met with the media after Friday’s series-opening 5-4 win over the New York Yankees in the American League Divisional Series at Fenway Park and, again, I received an education:
1. Chris Sale is not being evaluated by the speed of his fastball, but its location. Cora said he was impressed by Sale’s aggressiveness and pitch location. Cora said: “It really didn’t matter if it was 91 or 99 … [he had] good fastballs inside. Elevated fastballs. Off-speed pitches were great.” That is the difference between pitching and throwing.
2. “In a perfect world the starter goes six (innings),” said Cora. Welcome to the new normal: the art of “bullpening.” Starters in relief? Normal. The complete game? Not normal. The postseason managerial strategy looks nothing like it did … three years ago. 10 years ago? Completely unrecognizable. In fact, attempting to compete using the archaic ideas that were used in 2004, 2005 or 2006 would be viewed as old school and unsustainable. The “perfect world” now plays dramatically different.
3. Now I know why Alex Cora was snapped up so quickly by the Boston Red Sox. I had no doubt he would make a good manager, but he is managing far beyond his experience. His ability to put together a game strategy, while being flexible to in-game decision-making, is visionary. That is an intangible that Cora learned and honed during his 14-year playing career.
ALEX CORA Q&A
Were you looking at the radar gun in that first inning?
ALEX CORA: Early in the season he (Chris Sale) wasn’t throwing 99. He was throwing 95, 96. Tonight from the get-go, after McCutchen he was very aggressive in the strike zone, you could see good extension. Repeating his delivery. He did an outstanding job and gave us a chance to win the game.
Do you feel like he was close to 100% or was that a matter of a competitor kind of gutting it out and figuring out how to win?
ALEX CORA: That one you have to ask him. I’m pleased with what I saw. It really didn’t matter if it was 91 or 99, we knew he was going to compete. Good fastballs inside. Elevated fastballs. Off-speed pitches were great. That was a good performance.
Before you the game you talked about scripting out how you wanted to use the relievers. How much did you work out and how much did you have to improvise?
ALEX CORA: We knew where we were going. We had an idea, Rick (Porcello) was going to be in the bullpen. And it didn’t work out with Ryan. Voit was late on a fastball and hit the ball over first base. After that he lost control of his pitches. So we had to go to work. He did a good job getting Torres out with a 3-2 breaking ball. And we went to Barnes probably a little bit earlier than expect the. That’s why you saw Rick in the eighth inning.
Why Porcello instead of Eovaldi or Wright?
ALEX CORA: Steven complained about his knee, and he wasn’t available today. Actually, he had an MRI during the night. And we’ll know more about it tomorrow.
You saw in Houston last year with starters coming out of the bullpen in October, how effectively that worked. Does that give you more confidence doing that and do you think that’s something you might want to use as an option going forward here?
ALEX CORA: One thing I learned last year, to win a World Series is going to take 25, 27 guys to do it, regardless of their roles. In a perfect world the starter goes six. You have the seventh inning guy, eighth inning and ninth inning and you move on. To get 27 outs at this stage right now is very difficult.