Red Sox

Bard ready to move on from 2012

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Bard ready to move on from 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. Daniel Bard is looking forward to the day when every bullpen session is not monitored, every pitch examined, every nuance analyzed and overanalyzed, and he can be just another reliever in the bullpen. But after his dismal foray into starting pitching last season, that day has not yet arrived.

Bard threw his first live batting practice session on Saturday. It was his third time pitching off a mound in Red Sox camp, and he was satisfied with his outing.

It felt good, Bard said after his outing. Just trying to work the kinks out. It takes a few pitches to get used to having the cages around the plate and the L-screen in front of the mound. But once you kind of settle in, it felt good.

That was a feeling that eluded Bard last year. In 11 games, 10 starts, in the first half Bard posted a record of 5-6 with a 5.24 era. It was his disastrous outing on June 3 in Toronto that signaled the death knell for his career as a starter. He went 1 23 innings, giving up five runs on one hit, a home run, and six walks, two strikeouts and two hit batters. He was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket after that, his psyche badly bruised.

Bard returned to the big league team on Aug. 31, making six appearances, spanning 4 13 innings, allowing nine earned runs on eight hits, three home runs, six walks and four strikeouts.

It was frustrating, he said. Trying to do what youve done your whole life and what youve been really good at, and for some reason things just arent clicking. I dont think anybody could quite put a really good explanation on it. I think it was just a combination of things, getting in some bad habits, and I had a hard time getting out of them.

I think the best thing for me was two or three months off after the season, let those habits go away. The first time you pick up a ball in the offseason, youre relearning how to throw and find that release point anyway. So thats kind of how it is. Just starting a new season, Im excited. Im looking forward to it. The past is the past. Im going to go on how I feel on a day to day basis.

Manager John Farrell was the Sox pitching coach from 2007-10 and saw Bard make his big league debut in 2009, becoming a dominant set-up man in 2010, when Bard posted a 1.93 era with a 9.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio in 73 appearances. Farrell was also satisfied with Bards outing.

Just getting consistent with his timing, Farrell said. I thought he had a good feel for his secondary pitches. Its BP. I dont want to overanalyze it too much, but repetition on the mound, seeing a hitter in the box.

The one point of emphasis that he was trying to get done was not to guide the ball. Stay aggressive even in early BP and bullpen sessions, and hes doing just that.

Bard believes hes resolved some of the issues that plagued him last season.

The balls coming out of my hand free and easy, he said. I couldnt say that for the first or the second half of last season, so thats it. Its just letting the ball come out and trusting it. So I feel good now.

And that, in itself, is a good feeling.

I know I keep repeating this, but it feels good coming out, and I couldnt even say that playing catch or throwing in the bullpen last year, he said. So to be able to do that, having a hitter in the box today, getting some reactions there, it was a good start. And once you get into some real games and really get some feedback on what the balls doing.

Farrell has noticed Bards improved confidence, too.

Consistent with the way he described what he was feeling, how he was thinking in terms of looking back on last year, and the outlook on camp, and what he was trying to get done on the mound, Farrell said. And thats pitching with that aggressiveness, pitching with that shorter-outing mentality, rather than be efficient and work deeper into games that led into potentially guiding the ball from the mound. And hes showing that. Thats the mindset that hes got here. And yet hes got to be patient. His bodys going to have to catch up with that mentality in terms of the timing in his delivery and thats what hes going through right now.

As Red Sox manager, Cora must keep conviction, honesty that got him job

As Red Sox manager, Cora must keep conviction, honesty that got him job

BOSTON -- Just as a batter can subconsciously play to avoid losing, rather than to win, a manager can operate with a fear of failure. Such an unwitting approach may have contributed John Farrell’s downfall, and is an area where Alex Cora can set himself apart.

A lot has been written about the value of authenticity in leadership. It’s one thing to have the charisma and conviction needed to land a position of power. It’s another to take over a pressure-cooker job, like manager of the Red Sox, and carry the fortitude to stay true to yourself, continue to let those qualities shine.

Cora did not appear to pull any punches in his days with ESPN. The 42-year-old engaged in Twitter debates with media members and fans. And throughout his baseball life, he showed his colors.

Via Newsday’s Dave Lennon, here’s a scene from 2010 when Cora was with the Mets: 

Last year, Cora spoke out against the league office's rule requiring minorities always be interviewed.

Perhaps most interesting of all, when Chris Sale cut up White Sox jerseys, Cora was Dennis Eckersley-like in his assessment:

“What he did is not acceptable,” Cora said of Sale. “If I’m a veteran guy, I’m going to take exception. if I’m a young guy, I’m going to take exception. Because as a young guy on a team that is actually struggling right now, somebody has to show me the ropes of how to act as a big leaguer. And this is not the way you act as a big leaguer. Forget the trades, forget who you are.

“What you do in that clubhouse, you got to act like a professional. And that’s one thing my agent, Scott Boras, used to tell me when I got to the big leagues: act like a professional. Chris Sale didn’t do it. He’s not showing the veterans that you respect the game. He’s not showing the rookies how to be a big leaguer, and that’s what I take exception to.”

Take out Chris Sale’s name from the above quotation and insert David Price’s. Describes Price's incident with Eckersley perfectly, doesn't it? 

Now, no manager can say what they’re really thinking all the time. Cora’s not in the media anymore. His new job description is different. 

But when you consider the great success of Terry Francona -- and why he succeeded in this market beyond simply winning -- what stands out is how comfortable Francona appears in his own skin. How genuine he seems. 

There is a way to acknowledge, as a manager, when something is off. A way to do so gently but genuinely. A way to say what you feel -- and a way to say what you feel must be said -- while operating without fear of the players you manage. 

Ultimately, most every comment Francona makes is intended to shield his players. But Francona shows his personality as he goes (or if you want to be a bit cynical, he sells his personality marvelously). Those little self-deprecating jokes -- he charms the hell out of everyone. The media, the fans. The Cult of Tito has a real following, because he feels real. Because he is real. 

Farrell was not fake. But he did have a hard time letting his personality come across consistently, to his detriment. He was reserved, in part because that just appeared to be his nature. But the job must have, with time, forced him to withdraw even further. As everything Farrell said (and did) was picked apart in the market, it likely became easiest just to play it safe in every facet -- speaking to the media, speaking to players.

The Sox’ biggest undertaking in 2017 seemed to be a nothing-to-see-here campaign. It was all fine. No David Ortiz, no home runs, no problem. Manny Machado was loved. The media was the problem, not any attitude or attitudes inside the clubhouse. Base running was a net positive -- you name it, none of it was ever tabbed as a problem publicly by the manager, or anyone else.

A perpetually defensive stance was the public image. Issues were never addressed or poorly defused, so questions always lingered.

Maybe Cora cannot admonish Sale as he did a year ago now that he’s managing Sale. Not publicly, anyway. But even as a quote-unquote player's manager, the job still requires authority, which should be doled out just as it was earned: through authentic comments and actions.

"My job as the manager is to set the culture, the expectations, the standards, the baseball," Cora’s present boss, Astros manager A.J. Hinch, said the night the Astros clinched the pennant. "It's the players' job to develop the chemistry.

“And obviously good teams always say that, we want chemistry, and what comes first, the chemistry or the winning. But when you have it, you want to hold on to it as much as possible . . . We've got a good thing going because we have one common goal, we have one common standard, and that's to be your best every day."

Cora has to remain true to his best, too -- not what he thinks, and hears, and reads, people want his best to be.

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Red Sox hire Alex Cora as their new manager

Red Sox hire Alex Cora as their new manager

BOSTON -- Alex Cora is the 47th manager in Red Sox history, charged with reinvigorating a young clubhouse and improving on consecutive 93-win seasons that fizzled in the first round of the playoffs.

The team made the hiring of the 42-year-old Astros bench coach official on Sunday, a day after Houston advanced to the World Series and two days before the start of the Fall Classic. Cora will remain with the Astros until the Series is finished and has a three-year deal, with a club option for 2021.

A 14-year big leaguer from Puerto Rico, Cora is the first Latin manager in club history. He hit .252 in 301 games for the Sox from 2005-08. He was the most sought-after managerial candidate this offseason and arrives with a great reputation based on his personality, his prior experience in Boston and his season with the Astros. 

ALEX CORA: NEW RED SOX MANAGER

He knows Sox second baseman and leader Dustin Pedroia well. The last time Cora was in the World Series prior to this year was 2007. On Saturday, exactly 10 years after the Red Sox came back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Indians in the American League Championship Series, the Astros finished off a rally after falling behind 3-2 in the series.

"You know, we've never been through this," Dustin Pedroia said after the Sox won Game 7 in 2007. "This is on the biggest stage. Everyone is watching these games. I remember the Angels series, I was nervous. Alex Cora told me, 'Hey, settle down, be yourself, have fun. This game is meant to be played, have fun. Play as hard as you can and leave it out there on the field. If we lose, we lose. Don't have any regrets.'

"Ever since then I kind of went out there, and I don't worry about anything but playing hard. I think everybody is doing that. Nobody cares about anything, just picking each other up and playing the game to win."

Early on, Cora will have to prove that his inexperience is not a stumbling block for a club in a win-now mindset. This season was Cora's only as a major-league coach. He's the first Sox manager to take the big job without prior major-league managing experience since Grady Little in 2002. 

Cora's ability to bond with players is his hallmark.

"Alex brings a lot to the table," Astros outfielder Carlos Beltran said. "He's a guy that always is looking for information that he could use against the opposite team. And he's also, he provides that information to the player, which is great. He has good communication with the guys, respects the guys. He's always in the clubhouse getting to know the players, getting to know which buttons he could push on each player to make them go out there and play the game hard, which is great.

"I think I always feel that sometimes managers, they draw a very defined line between players and manager. And sometimes they get caught up not going to the clubhouse because they don't want to feel like they're invading their space. But as a player, I love when managers come to the clubhouse, sit down, talk to us, get to know us, ask about our family, about everything. And that really, for me, means a lot. So Alex does that real well."

Cora's hiring comes five years and a day after the Red Sox hired John Farrell. The choice could have been announced prior to Sunday, but the Red Sox were being respectful of the Astros' playoff run. 

In a statement released by the Red Sox, Cora said: “I am extremely honored and humbled to be named manager of the Boston Red Sox and I want to thank Dave, John Henry, Tom Werner, and Sam Kennedy for giving me such a tremendous opportunity. Returning to the Red Sox and the city of Boston is a dream come true for me and my family and I look forward to working towards the ultimate goal of winning another championship for this city and its great fans. At the same time, I want to express my appreciation for Jim Crane, Jeff Luhnow, A.J. Hinch, and the entire Houston Astros organization for giving me the chance to start my coaching career. It has been a very special season and an incredible organization to be a part of and I am looking forward to the World Series and winning with this group.”

“We were very impressed when we interviewed Alex,” Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said in the statement. “He came to us as a highly-regarded candidate, and from speaking with him throughout this process, we found him to be very knowledgeable, driven, and deserving of this opportunity. He is a highly respected and hardworking individual who has experience playing in Boston. Alex also has a full appreciation for the use of analytical information in today's game and his ability to communicate and relate to both young players and veterans is a plus. Finally, the fact that he is bilingual is very significant for our club.”

“As someone who has played in Boston and knows what it takes to win here, Alex is uniquely positioned to instill a championship culture,” team chairman Werner added in the statement. “Baseball is in his blood and we could not be more pleased to have found someone so accomplished to lead our team. Welcome home, Alex.” 

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