Alex Cora believes in his team — even if others don’t.
“We can contend in 2021. This is a good baseball team. It’s a team that is very versatile, dynamic, a bunch of good athletes. Not only the position players. But also pitching staff-wise,” the Red Sox manager told reporters during his first video conference of spring training. “You’ve got sinkers and cutters and sliders and curveballs and fastballs up, fastballs down, changeups. We’re not one-dimensional. We have a good pitching staff.
“I’m very excited about what the organization has done since I got here in November. I said it a few days ago: If you look at who we were (in November), to where we’re at now, we are a lot better. We are a lot better. And that’s what we can control right now. I’m very happy with the players that we have and what (Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom) and the group is doing to keep getting better, which is exciting.”
The Red Sox finished in last place in the American League East during Major League Baseball’s condensed 2020 campaign. They posted a 24-36 record, the fourth-worst mark in baseball, thanks in large to their inconsistency from the mound.
While it’s fair to wonder how much better Boston will be in 2020, especially with Chris Sale still recovering from Tommy John surgery and Eduardo Rodriguez having not pitched since 2019, there also is plenty of reason for optimism. The Red Sox brought in several intriguing new faces, and Cora’s return to the bench in itself could provide a boost.
But what exactly is Cora’s definition of “contend” as it relates to 2021? Are we talking playoffs? Divisional crown? Championship parade?
The skipper didn’t go into specifics Thursday. Instead, it sounds like the Red Sox intend to let their preparation and performance do the talking, well aware that Boston has underachieved since winning 108 regular-season games en route to a World Series title in 2018.
“We have a good team, and we have a chance to play in October. We do. We do,” Cora said. “We have a good baseball team — very balanced, very versatile. So, if you get to October, you only have to win 11 or 12 (games), whatever it is. You take care of business in October. But we have a chance to play in October.”
First, the Red Sox must take care of business in February, March, April, May, June, July, August and September. And the journey officially has begun.