Alex Cora

J.D. Martinez states without equivocation that Red Sox will be exonerated by MLB investigation

J.D. Martinez states without equivocation that Red Sox will be exonerated by MLB investigation

SPRINGFIELD -- For five hours on Saturday morning at Winter Weekend, Red Sox players and coaches delivered basically the same message in regards to the 2018 cheating scandal: We're not at liberty to say anything until the league finishes its investigation.

And then J.D. Martinez stepped in front of the cameras.

The slugging DH, who earlier this offseason chose to remain in Boston rather than exercise an opt-out in his contract, minced no words when asked if the Red Sox did anything wrong during their championship 2018 season.

"You know, it sucks, to be honest with you," he said of the investigation. "It does suck. But you know what? I know I'm excited for the investigation to be over with just so that they can see that there was nothing going on here."

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So he believes the team is innocent of the charges that it used the replay room to steal opposing signs in real time?

"I believe that, yes," Martinez said.

And what gives Martinez this confidence, despite a report to the contrary in The Athletic claiming that the Red Sox stole signs?

"Because I was in there," he said. "I saw what was. . . . Straight up, everyone seems to forget that in 2017 and '16 this team was a really good team. This team won 93 games those two years and then we just got better."

Martinez spoke without hesitation, and also saluted departed manager Alex Cora, while offering some insight into why Cora decided to leave the team.

"Kind of heartbroken about it," he said. "I talked to him before and I understood his side of it. He didn't want to be a distraction going into the season. I know it was wearing on him and his family, so I obviously feel for him and I wish him the best. But I know he played a big, big role for our team and he was one of my favorites, if not my favorite manager that I've had. It's going to be tough."

Mike Lowell says he'd love to take job as Red Sox manager temporarily if it brought Alex Cora back

Mike Lowell says he'd love to take job as Red Sox manager temporarily if it brought Alex Cora back

Mike Lowell would check a lot of the boxes the Red Sox would be looking for in their managerial search. The popular former Red Sox third baseman is a Cuban-American who speaks Spanish and English and is media-savvy as an analyst for the MLB Network. 

Still, there's one condition he has that will probably take Lowell out of the running. 

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The 2007 World Series MVP and 2018 inductee into the team's Hall of Fame has no managerial experience, but told WEEI's Rob Bradford in a text message, "I would love to if I knew it was just for a year and Cora was guaranteed to come back."

Alex Cora, a Red Sox teammate of Lowell's for three seasons (2006-08), was let go by on Tuesday after he was named as the central figure in Major League Baseball's investigation of sign-stealing by the Houston Astros when Cora was their bench coach in 2017. Cora is also alleged to have brought a similar system to Boston when he became manager before the 2018 season. MLB is continuing to investigate the allegations against the Red Sox and it will likely result in a suspension of one season or longer for Cora.

Former Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each suspended for a season by MLB and subsequently fired by Houston.

With Cora facing perhaps a longer punishment, or perhaps even a lifetime ban from baseball -- and from Red Sox ownership's telling silence when asked if Cora would ever manage in the majors again -- Lowell's plan of temporarily filling in until Cora's return isn't likely to fly. 

Ron Roenicke sounds clean, making him the safest choice to replace Alex Cora as Red Sox manager

Ron Roenicke sounds clean, making him the safest choice to replace Alex Cora as Red Sox manager

SPRINGFIELD -- The Red Sox are unlikely to name a manager in the next few days, preferring instead to take as disciplined an approach to this momentous decision as they can, given the time constraints.

They'd love to hire from within for the sake of continuity, but they face a dilemma: what if they tab a coach to replace Alex Cora, only to find him implicated when MLB completes its investigation into allegations of sign-stealing in 2018?

The coaches met the media on Saturday morning at Winter Weekend, and one of them sounded like the safest bet to emerge unscathed from whatever report MLB produces. And so, given the challenges that loom, with spring training only three weeks away, it's fair to say bench coach Ron Roenicke put his best foot forward as an honest and forthright potential face of whatever follows this scandal.

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"It's obviously a tough time," Roenicke said. "And I know things over the years, maybe some little things have happened before. But when something like this comes out, it obviously damages the game. I think you try to get past it. You try to do things the right way. I came from being with Mike Scioscia for a long time in Anaheim and it was something that was really important to Mike, how we went about things as a staff and what we did. 

"I took that same philosophy when I went to Milwaukee and managed. I always felt like yes, there's lots of things we could do on the field. When I was a third-base coach I could give pitches to the hitters since 2000 when I was in the big leagues and that's legal to do from the third-base box. But I didn't think it was right, so I didn't do it.

"I spent so many years playing this game and trying to do things the right way," Roenicke added. "It's hard. It hurts in all areas. You try to raise your kids to do things the right way, you try to live your life that way, you try to be that way in your career. So,  anytime you see that, it hurts. I also realize that we all screw up. I've screwed up. Everybody has. It just happens this is a huge deal, and it's sad to see that for the game."

It remains unclear if the Red Sox are focusing on an interim solution or someone who could fill the role longer term. They'll undoubtedly take a host of characteristics into consideration, not least of which is a facility with analytics, which Cora embraced. Roenicke, 63, might not be the most progressive choice in this regard, but outside of pitching coach Dave Bush, it's hard to single out a Red Sox coach who would be.

From a messaging standpoint, though, the Red Sox could do a lot worse than the avuncular former Brewers skipper, who led Milwaukee to 96 wins and an NLCS berth in 2011, finishing second in the Manager of the Year voting. He also spent eight years in the major leagues as a switch-hitting outfielder.

He certainly didn't sound like someone concerned about being caught up in the collateral damage of whatever the Red Sox may or may not have done in 2018.

"It would be concerning if something happened that I knew I was a part of, that I was brought into as part of that," he said. "I know what I do. I always try to do things the right way."

Roenicke checks some boxes. He'd be the most obvious interim candidate on the staff if the team wants to conduct a more traditional managerial search next fall. And he'd allow for the continued development of third base coach Carlos Febles, who's a potential future manager, or even former All-Star catcher Jason Varitek, a special assistant who, in a perfect world, would spend some time on a coaching staff before considering his next step.

Roenicke was asked if he still harbored hopes of managing last week, before we had any idea of the scandal that was about to unfold.

"I'm always content," he said. "Coaching is fun. It's a fun job. Managing is challenging. I enjoy it. I love the challenge of it. I wasn't really thinking about it too much, but my phone was lit up every day from my friends or whoever, saying this was a possibility."

At this point in the offseason, the Red Sox probably won't find a perfect solution. There are safe ones, though, and none feels safer than Roenicke.