Red Sox

Notes: Ellsbury doing it all as of late

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Notes: Ellsbury doing it all as of late

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON As if trying to assure his fellow players they did the right thing by electing him to the American League All-Star team, Jacoby Ellsbury has flat-out sizzled since his selection was announced.

Wednesday night's 3-for-5 performance in the Red Sox' 6-4 win over the Blue Jays puts him at 9-for-18 with a home run and two stolen bases from the time he was named to the team.

Im just relaxing, having fun, he said. Its such an honor to be selected by my peers to the All-Star Game. Those are the guys that see you play in spring training and during the regular season. I'm just relaxing and having fun.

Hes strong, manager Terry Francona said. Hes wiry strong. When he gets under a ball and it backspins, it goes a long way. Hes been terrific in the outfield, on the bases and at the plate. Hes settled into that leadoff role and hes been terrific.

Hes also made some sparkling plays in the field. One of those plays includes a catch that will never make it into the record books. With one out in the fifth inning Wednesday night, a runner on first and Eric Thames batting, Ellsbury ran into the center-field wall as he tracked down Thames' fly ball to deep center. The only problem: Time had been called and the catch didnt count. After a brief delay to clear up the confusion -- plate umpire Tim McClelland made no motion to indicate time had been called until after the ball was hit -- Thames eventually struck out.

I didnt realize the catch didn't count until I came in, Ellsbury said. I didnt even know what happened. Fortunately, I didnt crash into the wall harder than I did. Never had anything like that before.

But there was no doubt in the bottom of the first, when he launched a leadoff home run off Ricky Romero. It was Ellsburys third lead-off homer of the season, sixth of his career. It was also a career-high 10th home run of the season for him.

I was just trying to get a pitch I could drive, he said. Fortunately, he gave me something over the plate.

He was also a key in the Sox two-out, four-run rally in the fourth inning, with a double off thewall in left-center to score two runs.

I thought our whole lineup swung the bat well tonight, he said. Thats huge. Guys in scoring position. Any time you get the bottom of the order rolling, youre going to score some runs.

It was Ellsburys 12th three-hit game of the season. He is now batting .310 this season. Leading off games, he is batting .343.

When he first got here, I knew he was going to be a great player, said Tim Wakefield, who got the win. Hes got all five tools and hes taking advantage of the opportunity hes been given. Hes gotten better. Hes maturing. Hes an All-Star. What more can you say?

Right-hander Clay Buchholz, on the disabled list because of a lower back strain, returned to Boston after being examined Wednesday morning by Dr. Craig Brigham in Charlotte, N.C.

After the game, the Sox issued a statement from team medical director Dr. Tom Gill:

Clay Buchholz was seen in consultation by Dr. Craig Brigham today in Charlotte. Dr. Brigham agreed with the teams assessment that the back symptoms can be treated with rehabilitation. Clay will be advanced in his activities as his symptoms allow."

With Adrian Gonzalez getting a day off, Kevin Youkilis played first base for the first time this season. Batting in the fifth spot for the fifth time, he went 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. raising his average to .277. He hit his 12th home run of the season leading off the second inning. It was his first home run in the fifth spot since June 14, 2008, at Cincinnati. He has reached base safely in a season-high 18 straight games. In his last 20 games since June 12, he as driven in 20 runs, batting .343 (24-for-70) with six doubles and four home runs.

Hes also been dealing with assorted dings, including being hit by a pitch in the upper left back from Brandon Morrow Monday night.

My left shoulder is a little tight, he said. Basically lifting it up a little bit and moving it backwards is a little tight. But hitting-wise, luckily, there's no affect; mainly its if I have to dive and throw the ball . . .

"Tomorrow and the next day, itll be feeling better. Its just one of those things that the fluid and swelling moves out and hopefully tomorrow Ill feel great.

Gonzalez missed his first game of the year, having played in all 85 games prior to Wednesday night. With Youkilis at first, Yamaico Navarro played third.

Gonzalez had a stiff neck last night, Francona said before Wednesday's game. We talked after the game and he said, You know, I know you talk about guys having days off and he hasnt had one. I said call me in the morning let me know how you're doing. He said, I really dont see the ball off Romero that well.

He hasnt had one day off yet. When players don't put up a fight about getting a day off, sometimes it's an indication guys need a day. So itll be good for him."

The game was delayed by rain for 40 minutes with two outs in the top of the eighth. Daniel Bard had started the inning, but Dan Wheeler came out after the delay.

Bard extended his career-high scoreless inning streak to 17, retiring the only two batters he faced before the delay. In that stretch, Bard has allowed just nine baserunners on five singles and four walks with 17 strikeouts.

Dustin Pedroia extended his on-base streak to a season-high 20 games with a first-inning single, passingEllsburys 19-game stretch for longest on the team this season.

The Sox batted around in the four-run fourth. It is the 17th time his season they have done so. They entered the game tied with Colorado for most times batting around this season with 16.

The Sox' five consecutive hits in the fourth tie their season high, with the fifth inning against the Blue Jays on June 11.

Left-hander Rich Hill, on the DL after Tommy John surgery, said the range of motion in his elbow and shoulder is almost back to normal.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

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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