Alex Cora is happy to re-take a test he already has passed.
The Boston Red Sox manager this week named balancing a myriad of lineup options as his biggest challenge as manager in 2021 and he says it’s a “similar” test to the one he faced with the World Series-winning 2018 Red Sox. Cora notes how production from utility players like Enrique Hernandez, Christian Arroyo and Marwin Gonzalez allow him to change Boston’s lineups — in order to take advantage of matchups — without worrying about a drop-off in the team’s offensive and defensive performances.
“We like matchups, but with Christian right now, it’s not like he’s getting lucky getting hits, but he’s getting good at-bats so we can play him at second knowing that we’re going to be solid there and we can keep Enrique in center field and then move Marwin to give Xander an off day or Raffy an off day or Bobby an off day,” Cora said, per ESPN’s Joon Lee. “It’s funny because when you talk about Marwin, he’s the guy giving everyone an off day, but he’s still an every-day player. We just move him around.
“That’s the biggest challenge, when to unplug somebody or when to plug somebody, but I think it’s very similar to what we did in 2018,” Cora continued. “Our leadoff hitter then was Mookie Betts and people see it that way, but besides that, the rest of the guys were platoon guys that we tried to maximize their abilities.”
The Red Sox are 14-9 and have a three-game lead atop the American League East Division standings. While Boston’s pitchers are performing better than expected and J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Alex Verdugo and Rafael Devers are playing like All-Stars, the contributions of Arroyo, Gonzalez and Hernandez also have been key to the hot start the Red Sox have enjoyed.
Sure, plenty of baseball remains to be played in 2021, and the Red Sox will have to win many more games before comparisons to the all-conquering 2018 team dominate this year’s narrative. Nevertheless, Cora joins Martinez in pointing out some similarities between the teams, and their insights should add a bit of excitement to the ongoing campaign.