Red Sox

There's no defense for Red Sox fielding last season, and Alex Cora knows it

There's no defense for Red Sox fielding last season, and Alex Cora knows it

SAN DIEGO — In all of the ways the Red Sox collectively regressed last season, not enough attention is paid to the defense.

A year after ranking fifth in the American League in defensive efficiency and featuring three Gold Glovers and two other finalists, the Red Sox sank to 11th in an across-the-board slump.

"Inconsistent. Yeah, we were inconsistent not only in the infield, but I think in the outfield," said manager Alex Cora. "We saw that early in the season. For how great they are, I do believe that there's more there, and we'll address it. We'll address it. I think Benny (Andrew Benintendi) can become a complete player. I know he's been in the final vote of the Gold Glove the last two years, but I think he can make some strides.

"I think early in the season we were a step slower than the other teams, and we paid the price because of that, as far as like communication and the way we were moving in the outfield. We can do better."

How can they improve? Cora basically went around the diamond. He believes third baseman Rafael Devers will benefit from more experience, as well as conversations with five-time Gold Glover Adrian Beltre.

Shortstop Xander Bogaerts ranked dead last among regular shortstops in defensive runs saved last year (minus-21), a function of decreased range. A revolving door at second base didn't help in the double play department, either, where the Red Sox ranked last in the American League.

"I think the next step for Xander is to become a better defensive player," Cora said. "For how sure-handed he is, I think his first step can be better. He's that good of an athlete, so that's the next challenge. If we do that, we'll be better. Turning the double play, we have to do that. It's funny because I mentioned that in Orlando a few years ago. Double plays are game changers. You don't turn over the play, you pay the price. You turn over the play, you go and hit and score runs. So we have to do better than that."

Cora also noted that Gold Glove finalist catcher Christian Vazquez experienced his own struggles, particularly when it came to passed balls.

"Defensively behind the plate, for how great he was, blocking wasn't great for Christian. He's working on that. There's a few things that I have learned over the last two months that we didn't do right, and we can do better. If we do that, we're going to have a good season."

Cora suggested that defense is a renewed emphasis under new boss Chaim Bloom.

"One thing we're going to talk about with Chaim coming from an organization that's very aggressive as far as defense, is why they do it, how they do it, and if that aggressiveness is going to — he can help us out," Cora said. "And that's something that I'm looking forward to sitting with Chaim and see where it takes us. If that aggressiveness can help Xander and Raffy defensively, so be it. So we'll talk about it."

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Who are the best catchers in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

Who are the best catchers in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

For a position so essential to baseball — no player handles the ball more often — the catching ranks in Red Sox history are surprisingly shallow.

Multiple seasons belong to players like Johnny Peacock, Pinch Thomas, Hick Cady, Roxy Walters, and Muddy Ruel, names that sound like they should belong to bouncers before big leaguers.

The dearth of catching talent may partly explain why the Red Sox routinely featured lousy starting rotations, at least until Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, and Co. arrived to give the club perennial Cy Young contenders no matter who squatted behind the plate.

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Had this list extended to 10 instead of five, some of the names would surprise you. Wally Schang, anyone? How about Bill Carrigan? There'd definitely be room for Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Anyway, the overall talent level may be thin, but the top five are legit, with three All-Stars and two Hall of Famers.

Click here for the top five catchers in Red Sox history.

Dave Roberts says former Red Sox Mookie Betts 'loves' being a Dodger

Dave Roberts says former Red Sox Mookie Betts 'loves' being a Dodger

Are Dave Roberts' latest comments about Mookie Betts just wishful thinking or reality?

The Los Angeles Dodgers manager said some interesting things about his new right fielder on ESPN's "The Sedano Show" Monday, including that he knows how Betts feels about being in Dodger blue.

I think him being in spring training with us — the relationship I have with him personally, and I think some players too, and coaches — it feels like he’s already played a season with us, which is strange. … Mookie’s gotta do what’s best for him and his family once that time does present itself, but I know that he loves being a Dodger.

After just eight spring training games, Betts "loves" being a Dodger? It seems like a stretch, but maybe getting out of Boston was that much of a relief for the 27-year-old.

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With the 2020 season on pause due to the coronavirus outbreak, it's possible we never see Betts play a regular-season game for the Dodgers. Major League Baseball and the MLB Players' Association agreed on a settlement that would let all pending free agents hit the open market if the coming season is canceled.

Betts, the 2018 American League MVP and World Series champion, likely will test free agency come 2021, and the Dodgers will have to pay a hefty price to keep him in L.A. 

If Dodgers ownership and team president Andrew Friedman decide to shell out the cash, then Betts will probably "love" being a Dodger even more.