Boston Red Sox fans received their first real taste of spring training Tuesday when manager Alex Cora met with reporters for the first time since arriving in Fort Myers, Fla.

Cora touched on several topics during his media availability at JetBlue Park, where Red Sox pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Wednesday to begin preparing for the 2024 MLB season.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow also addressed the media shortly after Cora’s news conference on the Fenway South bench. But for now, let’s focus on the skipper and what we can take away from his comments.

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1. Masataka Yoshida likely will be the primary designated hitter
Justin Turner held down the role for most of last season, but he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in free agency. That opened the door for Yoshida, who started 49 games at DH in 2023, to assume the responsibility moving forward.

“I’m not saying he’s the DH, but out of the group, he’ll get the most at-bats in that position,” Cora told reporters.

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The Red Sox ultimately could use a rotation of sorts, with the DH spot presenting an opportunity to leverage matchups and give guys rest throughout the season. But the Red Sox have a rather crowded outfield, as it stands, and Yoshida arguably is the weakest defender of the bunch.

2. Ceddanne Rafaela has a chance to win the centerfield job
Rafaela arguably is the strongest defender in Boston’s outfield, with Gold Glove potential when he enters his prime. He’s not a lock to crack the Red Sox’s Opening Day roster, but the possibility is very much on the table.

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“I do believe if Rafaela makes the team, he’s going to play center field,” Cora said.

And if Rafaela doesn’t make the team?

“Then we’ll go from there and somebody will win the job during spring training.”

Rafaela, one of the top prospects in the Red Sox system, made a strong first impression last season, flashing a dynamic skill set — both offensively and defensively — that could make him a franchise cornerstone with continued development. He’s still just 23 years old, with room for improvement in the batter’s box, though. So, the Red Sox aren’t committing to anything just yet.

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“He had a good offseason. He was in Tampa the last month working with his body, his swing and all that stuff. It’s just a matter of how we feel about it,” Cora said of Rafaela possibly breaking camp with the major-league club. “We know the defensive game is elite and it’s a game-changer. And you have seen throughout the years organizations have made efforts of improving the defense and taking the at-bats, right? Phillies did it last year. I think Toronto did it last year, too. So, we’ll sit down as a group towards the end and then decide what we want. If we’re comfortable with the kid playing center field, understanding that there’s going to be struggles at the big-league level in the offensive part of it, then we’ll go that way. If we feel he needs to go to the minor leagues and keep getting better and keep improving, we’ll do that, too.”

The Red Sox’s outfield group includes Jarren Duran, Wilyer Abreu, Rob Refsnyder and newcomer Tyler O’Neill in addition to Rafaela and Yoshida. It’ll be an area to monitor throughout the spring.

3. Vaughn Grissom likely will be the starting second baseman
This isn’t exactly news, as the intention was obvious as soon as the Red Sox acquired Grissom from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Chris Sale. But Cora nevertheless gave the 23-year-old a ringing endorsement Tuesday while discussing the middle of Boston’s infield.

“At second base, we’re going to give Vaughn a chance to run away with the position, and I do believe athletic-wise he’s capable of doing it,” Cora said. “And now, we’ve got to get him up to speed with everything that goes on in that position.”

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Trevor Story will be the Red Sox’s starting shortstop in 2024. That should have a positive impact on Boston’s defense, which struggled last season, and Grissom could finally give the Red Sox a long-term answer at the keystone.

4. The Red Sox’s rotation isn’t etched in stone
Basically, the Red Sox are going to see how things shake out. Cora mentioned a bunch of names while discussing the rotation — Lucas Giolito, Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck and Josh Winckowski — but wasn’t ready to pinpoint a starting five (or more).

Of course, there’s still the looming question of whether the Red Sox will make a late-offseason splash by signing someone like Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery, but the more likely scenario, it seems, is that Boston builds a rotation with the names already in house.

5. Alex Cora isn’t bothered by managing in the final year of his contract
Cora is entering the final year of his deal. His future beyond 2024 is unclear. Just don’t expect Cora to spend too much time focusing on the topic, even though it could be a frequent media talking point throughout the season.

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“Like I’ve been saying all along, this is where we’re at and whatever happens in the future, it’s going to be a family decision,” Cora said. “I’m glad that I’m here. This organization gave me a chance to become a big-league manager in the fall of 2017 and then, which is more surprisingly and I take it by heart, after the suspension, they gave me a chance to come back right after that. I appreciate that. I never thought I was going to be back managing as soon as I did after the mistake that I made, and for that, we appreciate that. … This is family for us. We love it in Boston. But at the same time, we understand as a family how it works. It’s a business. At the same time, we’re very happy where we’re at. We had one of the best offseasons that I’ve had in a while.”

“Like I said, I don’t see myself managing 10 years,” he added. “I envision myself doing other stuff in the game, with the family back in Puerto Rico. So, that’s where we’re at. But like I said, I don’t want this season to be about me. This is about the Boston Red Sox and how we need to bounce back to be better, to play in October. Obviously, it’s something that’s going to come up through the season, and I respect that, but I really don’t want to talk too much about it because this is where I am. I love it here. I appreciate everything that this organization has done with me and my family.”

6. Alex Cora has a clear goal for the Red Sox
When asked his expectations for the Red Sox, who are coming off back-to-back last-place finishes in the American League East, Cora had a very direct answer: “Play more than 170 games.”

That obviously would entail a trip to the playoffs, after a 162-game regular season. The Red Sox by no means are looking at 2024 as some sort of bridge year despite outside expectations being tempered.

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Featured image via Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports Images