BOSTON — Alex Cora and the Boston Red Sox coaching staff continue to stress the importance of swinging at good pitches when they instruct rookie Ceddanne Rafaela.

“The one thing we want him to do is control the strike zone,” Cora said Monday morning before the Red Sox took the field for their Patriots’ Day matchup against the Cleveland Guardians. “He’s been swinging a lot, chasing a lot. Got to get back to dominate the strike zone. He does that, he becomes a good hitter.”

Rafaela did a much better job with that in the series opener against Cleveland.

“Good swings today,” Cora said of Rafaela a few hours later, after Boston’s 6-0 loss at Fenway Park. “We’re getting close. We are getting close. He hit the ball in the air three times, I think it was. It carried. More pitches in the zone he was able to handle. So, we’re getting there.”

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Rafaela flied out to center field in the third inning after he connected on a 83 mph slider in the zone. He then flied out to left field in the fifth inning after he hit another 83 mph slider in the zone. And Rafaela concluded as he flied out to center, this time as he hit a four-seam fastball in the zone.

During his first and third at-bats combined, Rafaela watched three sliders go past for balls outside of the zone. And while Rafaela ultimately did not have a hit to show for his improved plate discipline (0-for-3), he noticed the difference much like Cora did.

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“I think I was swinging at good pitches, laying off of bad pitches,” Rafaela said after the game. “I think that’s all. Nothing really mechanically. I think it’s just to hit the right balls.”

Rafaela entered Monday’s game batting .170 with 14 strikeouts in 53 plate appearances. His numbers will not improve after the improved outing. But that doesn’t mean his feel at the plate isn’t heading in the right direction.

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Similar to Cora, Rafaela knows that, too.

“It’s not at the point I want, but I have started feeling better as of late,” Rafaela said. “I mean, finding the barrel is a start. So it’s getting there.”

Rafaela will have the opportunity to continue his momentum when the Red Sox return to Fenway Park on Tuesday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET, and you can watch it live on NESN.

Featured image via Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY Sports Images