Alex Cora was watching Garrett Richards throw live batting practice on Sunday when he turned to first base coach Tom Goodwin with an observation: The Red Sox right-hander looked like a former six-time All-Star.
"You see Richards warming up today and I pulled Goody aside and said, 'Look at this guy. He reminds you of Kevin Brown,' " Cora said. "And Garrett so far, he's had a lot of injuries. We talk about his stuff, and we're comparing him to one of the best that we've seen. It's just amazing where they're at pitching-wise. So it's tough to hit."
Cora made the comparison as part of a larger discussion of how talented today's players are, even relative to when he made his own debut in 1998.
But the Brown comparison is still eye-opening when one considers the arsenal. A 211-game winner who retired in 2005 with a 3.28 ERA, Brown won a pair of ERA titles -- including a 1.89 mark in 1996 that earned him a runner-up finish to John Smoltz in the Cy Young race -- as well as a World Series in 1997 with the Marlins. He made his final All-Star team at age 38 with the Dodgers.
Brown threw a vicious sinker that ranks among the game's best ever. Richards, by contrast, has only thrown 200 innings in a season once in his career thanks to a series of injuries, including an elbow that needed Tommy John surgery in 2018.
But despite the injuries, he has still compiled a lifetime ERA of 3.62, suggesting that he could excel if he could ever stay healthy, a statement that also applies to right-hander Nathan Eovaldi.
So what reminds Cora of Brown?
"Sinker. Just the sinker," he said. "Just uncomfortable. You can see him in his windup, the way he strides, it's different. It just came up. I'm not comparing him with Kevin. But stuff-wise, that's where we're at, like Nate stuff, and Richards'. It's different.
"It's actually fun to watch. I saw that live BP like, 'OK, this might be cool.' We keep them healthy, they go out there every five days, and we should be OK."