Red Sox

Drellich: Cora’s dedication to Puerto Rico reflects well on the man, and the manager

Drellich: Cora’s dedication to Puerto Rico reflects well on the man, and the manager

BOSTON — If Alex Cora had chosen this offseason to anchor down in Boston, to go blind to the outside world, he would have been within his rights. He may even have drawn praise from some corners. A first-time manager, understandably, could easily become obsessed with the newness of that title at the expense of everything that brought him to it.

Every time Cora has boarded a plane this offseason to visit hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico, he has signaled to those paying attention that he is a man unchanged. On Tuesday morning — with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy and Rick Porcello at his side — Cora again boarded a plane to Puerto Rico, this one a JetBlue flight from Logan Airport loaded with helping hands and supplies for his ailing homeland.

“For me, people see me with a backpack and jeans [here], and back home in shorts and sandals, and they tell me, ‘Do you realize you’re the manager of the Boston Red Sox?’” Cora said. “I’m like ‘Yes, I do, but nothing is going to change from my end.’ … I’m 42. I’m going to live my life. And I understand that this is a big-time job in our business, but at the same time, if I change who I am, well, I wasn’t the right guy for this job. 

“This is something that I really like — you know, I like doing this. It’s been a great time the last two months, being home, being here, being home, being here. Looking forward to next week, but right now, going back home, I think, is the greatest thing that has happened the last two months.”

Cora’s been spending plenty of time getting to know his Red Sox players and staff. But his affinity and dedication to his roots, to Puerto Rico's recovery, are indicative of his mindset as not just a field manager, but a person — and the job is to manage people first and foremost.

There were nearly 10 tons of supplies on board a plane with Sox regalia painted on it, a full-size passenger plane hauling vaccines and supplies for Hospital Pediatrico Universitario in San Juan, in addition to food, batteries, hygiene products and toys. There was even baseball equipment.

Cora could have just written a check. Same for Porcello, same for Kennedy and the Red Sox. Chris Sale and Christian Vazquez were slated to join the envoy in Puerto Rico as well.

Cora had long planned and hoped to do something like this.

“For all the expectations for the 2018 season, and knowing what the fan base and everybody here expects out of the team, not to be selfish, but I was looking forward to this day more than even Opening Day,” Cora said. “It’s been tough for us [in Puerto Rico] the last 4-4 1/2 months back home. Throughout the season, you know the end of the season, I felt like I wasn’t able to do enough to help our countrymen because of work and other stuff that went on in November.”

“And when I brought up the plane and my plan to Dave [Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski] and ownership, they didn’t hesitate. This is going to be a great day for us. Not only for the Cora family, and the Red Sox, but I think for Puerto Rico. People are looking forward to this and we’re going to have a great time back home.”

The idea fits perfectly with 100X35, a JetBlue initiative to help the island now and for the long haul.

The group on Tuesday was to visit Cora’s hometown of Caguas as well.

“I know how proud they are of what has happened in my life,” Cora said. “But I’m prouder of what they have done the last few months. … They’ve been fighting. There’s a lot of communities over there [where] the struggle is real.”

Hurricane Maria killed dozens, knocked out power to 3.4 million residents, and damaged and destroyed tens of millions of dollars in housing. 

“We need help, we need help," Cora said. "And this is just part of it. In the beginning, it was more about food and water, the needs have changed. When only 50 percent of the Island has power, there’s some places that they don’t have power, they don’t have water. It’s tough. People concentrate only on San Juan, the metropolitan area. The tourism where people go just to hang out. That looks great but go to the mountains, go to where we’re going to be today. On a daily basis, they’re in need.”

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Delay in J.D. Martinez's introduction suggests complication in medical review

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Delay in J.D. Martinez's introduction suggests complication in medical review

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- They’re leaving us to speculate now.

Sox manager Alex Cora said essentially nothing Friday about J.D. Martinez’s unfinished contract, a five-year, $110 million pact that was in the medical-review process. 

“I’m not concerned. I’m not concerned. I’m just  -- the thing I can do is do my thing,” Cora said Friday. “My job here is to show up every day and get ‘em ready.”

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Cora’s statement that he is not concerned appeared less an assessment of Martinez's direct situation and more a reinforcement of Cora’s larger point: He is not going to publicly engage the topic as the field manager.

Cora said he was unsure if Martinez was still in Fort Myers. Here's guessing Cora really does know. But, this is traditionally a front-office matter. 

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and Martinez’s agent, Scott Boras, both have made comments about the process this week. Not on Friday, however. On Friday, they went silent. 

So let’s consider what we know, and what it could mean.

Multiple times this week, the media waited at JetBlue Park because there was a belief a press conference was imminent. Terms were agreed to Monday. We’re about to enter Saturday without a press conference. We know for a fact the Sox and Martinez were still going through the medical process as of Thursday.

Added up, everything is highly suggestive of some sort of complication during J.D. Martinez’s medical review. What is impossible to know is the impact of any potential complication. 

The original agreement could go through completely and totally untouched. A contract could be revised in a slight way or a larger way. Other doctor visits could be arranged, and indeed, probably have been. 

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A complication does not mean a contract will fall apart. That would be a wildly unexpected scenario. 

Rather, it could mean the sides once again dig in. The Red Sox have doctors, and so too does Boras. Sometimes, there are differing medical opinions.

And it would be strange if there wasn't some medical concern.

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Scheduling or a similar matter may have contributed in slowing down this process. But by now, with a nine-figure investment at stake -- plus the involvement of top doctors and a major league baseball team -- it’s hard to imagine what logistical issue could exist. They have email for records, they have planes for visits.

Everyone else has little in the way of answers.

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Marco Hernandez returns to Boston after setback with shoulder

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Marco Hernandez returns to Boston after setback with shoulder

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox’ infield depth was tested mightily in 2017. The group is already seeing some attrition in 2018.

Marco Hernandez, who appeared in the mix at second base (at least up until the recent signing of Eduardo Nunez), returned to Boston because his surgically repaired left shoulder, his non-throwing shoulder, was bothering him. 

On May 26, Hernandez's season was cut short when he had an open stabilization (Latarjet) procedure, which is intended to prevent the shoulder from dislocating. Part of the procedure included the insertion of foreign materials — hardware, as Cora referred to it on Friday — and at least some of that has now been removed.

“He was feeling discomfort in his shoulder,” manager Alex Cora said Friday morning. "Flew him to Boston, at the end, they took out the hardware off of it. It seems like… it was creating the discomfort. Obviously, everything went well. Can’t give you a time when he’s coming back.”

Hernandez’s recovery will be dependent on how he’s feeling. 

“There’s guys that come out right away and they can go and there’s people who will still feel it and it’s a longer process,” Cora said. “Hopefully he can come back sooner rather than later. He was feeling it and at the end, they checked everything and it was the hardware that they have there. He’ll be fine.”

Hernandez, 25, is entering his third major league season. In 116 plate appearances, he has a .284 average. He's a left-handed hitter and looked particularly impressive last spring training.

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