Red Sox Part Ways With Alex Cora

The Red Sox and manager Alex Cora have mutually agreed to part ways, per a team release.

This news comes in the wake of the Houston Astros firing general manager Jeff Lunhow and manager AJ Hinch on Monday after both were handed down one-year suspensions by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred for the roles they played in Houston’s sign-stealing scandal during the 2017 season.

Cora, who served as Hinch’s bench coach in 2017, played a key role in, “developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit sign,” according to Manfred.

Because of this, the Astros were stripped of their 2020 and 2021 first and second-round picks and fined $5 million.

Although Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Red Sox’ use of illegally decoding signs through the club’s video replay room during the 2018 season is still ongoing, it is believed that Cora is facing ‘harsh’ discipline, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

In his two seasons at the helm with Boston, Cora led the Sox to a historic 119-win season capped off by the club clinching their ninth World Series title in 2018 and followed that with a sub-par 84-win campaign last year.

“I want to thank John, Tom, Sam, the players, our coaching staff and the entire Red Sox organization,” Cora said in a statement Tuesday. “I especially want to thank my family for their love and support.

“I do not want to be a distraction to the Red Sox as they move forward,” added Cora. My two years as manager were the best years of my life. It was an honor to manage these teams and help bring a World Series Championship back to Boston. I will forever be indebted to the organization and the fans who supported me as a player, a manager and in my efforts to help Puerto Rico.

“This is a special place. There is nothing like it in all of baseball, and I will miss it dearly,” he concluded.

Now just about a month out from when pitchers and catchers are due to report in at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Sox ownership and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom have found themselves in quite the predicament with no manager currently in place.

Ron Roenicke, who served as Cora’s bench coach the last two seasons and has managerial experience with the Milwaukee Brewers from 2011 until 2015, is an obvious candidate. He is scheduled to attend Red Sox Winter Weekend at MGM Springfield.

In a span of four months, the Red Sox have parted ways with both the architect and leader of their 2018 World Series-winning team in Dave Dombrowski and Cora.

Now, as the 2020 season looms, turbulent times may be on the horizon with plenty of decisions still to make.

Red Sox Used Video Room Illegally in 2018, per Report

The Red Sox reportedly used their video replay room illegally during the 2018 season, according to The Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal.

According to one source who was with the Red Sox during the 2018 season, the club, under new manager Alex Cora, employed a system where, “A staff member in the Red Sox’s video replay room would tell a player the current sign sequence. The player would return to the dugout, delivering the message on foot, rather than through a wearable device or a phone.” Then, “Someone in the [Red Sox’] dugout would relay the information to the baserunner, leaving the runner with two easy steps: Watch the catcher’s signs and, with body movements, tell the hitter what’s coming.”

The baserunner, either on first or second base in this case, would step off the bag with either his left or right foot to let the hitter at the plate know what type of pitch was coming.

If the opposition managed to change up their signs in the middle of a game, the Red Sox would send a player from the dugout to the video replay room to decipher the new signals. A process that surely did not take all that long, as Boston’s video room is just a few feet away from the dugout entrance.

Rosenthal does note that Major League Baseball began to implement in-game, in-person video security at the start of the 2018 postseason play, and club sources did say that, “this system did not appear to be effective or even viable,” that October, when the Red Sox went on to win the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.

Despite that though, one Red Sox source did tell The Athletic that the team had video monitors in their “back pocket,” meaning they could still act if they could still turn to the video if they felt inclined to do so.

This news comes nearly two months after Drellich and Rosenthal reported that three major-league managers, including Cora, were a part of the league’s investigation into the Astros stealing signs in 2017.

At that time, Cora served as Houston’s bench coach under AJ Hinch, and the third-year manager did not comment about the ongoing investigation at the Winter Meetings in San Diego last month.

As things stand right now, it seems as though this drama could drag out for quite some time. Stay tuned if more information becomes available in the meantime.

Red Sox Manager Alex Cora Reportedly Played ‘Key Role’ in Astros’ Sign Stealing Fiasco in 2017

Red Sox manager Alex Cora will be interviewed by Major League Baseball as part of the league’s investigation into the Houston Astros stealing signs throughout the 2017 season, per The Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal.

According to the report, Cora, “played a key role in devising the sign-stealing system the team used that season.”

Cora served as bench coach under manager A.J. Hinch during the Astros’ World Series-winning campaign in 2017. New Mets manager Carlos Beltran, who played his final season with Houston as the team’s designated hitter, will also be interviewed.

In case you missed this news from Tuesday, the basic premise is that the Astros had a system at Minute Maid Park where a camera was set up in the outfield so that it could capture what the opposing team’s catcher was laying down to his pitcher. With that information coming through on a monitor and some decoding of said signs, someone in the Astros dugout could signal to the hitter at the plate what kind of pitch was on the way, which was done through making, “a loud noise — specifically, banging on a trash can, which sat in the tunnel,” behind Houston’s dugout.

This much was confirmed by former Astros right-hander Mike Fiers, who was with the club from July 2015 until the end of the 2017 season.

What does this have to do with Cora and the Red Sox? Well, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the league spoke with Sox bullpen coach Craig Bjornson, who came over from Houston with Cora back in 2017, on Wednesday.

Cora appeared on WEEI’s Dale & Keefe show on Thursday, and was asked about his involvement in what is currently transpiring.

“I appreciate the question,” Cora said. “…I have talked to MLB and I’ll leave it at that.”

As for what is in store for Cora and the Sox, more is sure to come as the league’s investigation progresses, so stay tuned for that.

As Opt-Out Decision Looms, J.D. Martinez Is Officially on the Clock

Even though there is still one game remaining in this year’s installent of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros on Wednesday night, a former Astro in J.D. Martinez is on the clock.

Yes, the 32-year-old now has until 5 PM eastern time next Monday to decide whether or not he will opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million of his contract and become a free agent.

Martinez originally inked a five-year, $110 million deal with Boston back in February 2018. A deal that included built in opt-outs after the 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons.

In the two seasons he has spent with the Sox to this point, the Florida native ranks second among qualified American League hitters in home runs (79), first in RBI (235), sixth in runs scored (209), and second in slugging percentage (.593).

While introducing new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom on Monday, Red Sox principal owner John Henry said that he does not know what Martinez’s decision will be and that, “We’ll find out very soon.”

A client of super agent Scott Boras, Martinez may be enticed to enter free agency once again, as at 32, he may only have one last chance to earn a sizable contract in terms of both length and dollar figures.

In the following days leading into Monday evening, the Red Sox will have exclusive negotiating rights with their two-time All-Star slugger, as well as their other free agents. Martinez could reach a decision as early as 9 AM on Thursday, per MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

If Martinez were to opt out of his contract, the Sox would owe him a buyout in the form of $2.5 million. They would also more than likely extend him a qualifying offer in this scenario, which will be worth $17.8 million this offseason. That way, any club that signed Martinez would also owe Boston a compensatory draft pick, one that would fall after the fourth round of the 2020 amateur draft.

Given how Henry and chairman Tom Werner have essentially made it clear that they would like to cut down on payroll this winter, it should be interesting to see how serious the club is about bringing Martinez back if he does indeed opt out.

Reliving Andrew Benintendi’s ALCS Catch on Its One-Year Anniversary

One year ago Thursday night, October 17th, 2018, the Red Sox were one out away from jumping out to a three-games-to-one lead over the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park.

Entering the bottom half of the ninth inning with an 8-6 lead to protect after allowing one run to cross the plate in the eighth, former Sox closer Craig Kimbrel walked three of the first five hitters he faced in the frame to fill the bases and put the winning run at first for Astros star third baseman Alex Bregman.

Heading into that at-bat, Kimbrel had thrown just 53% of his 34 pitchers for strikes and even plunked Bregman in the previous inning.

On the very first pitch he saw from Kimbrel this time around, a 97 MPH four-seamer on the inner half of the plate, Bregman ripped laced a line drive to left field, one that was falling quickly as Andrew Benintendi was closing in on it.

Per Statcast, Bregman’s liner had an exit velocity of 86.3 MPH off the bat and 79% chance of being a hit.

If that line drive were to fall in for a hit, it certainly had the potential to clear the bases and give their Astros their second win of the series.

Benintendi had different plans though, as he closed in, sprawled out, and saved the day for the Red Sox with an incredible catch for the third and final out of the contest.

According to Baseball Reference, that catch had a Win Probability added of 18%, the second-highest amount for one play in Game 4 behind only Jackie Bradley Jr.’s two-run home run off Josh James in the fifth inning.

“I thought I got a good jump on it,”Benintendi later said following the Game 4 win. “It wasn’t hit that hard. I thought I could catch it, I timed it up well. At that point, it was do or die.”

Later named the Associated Press’ Play of the Year for 2018, Benintendi’s game-sealing catch was an altering one, and it could have made the difference between the Red Sox eventually topping the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series or getting sent home early by Houston for the second year in a row.

“It was fun. I’m glad I caught it,” Benintendi added.

It was also one of the few times we had seen Benintendi put his emotions on display while on the field to that point.

The 2019 season may not have gone the way the 25-year-old outfielder wanted it to, but the talent he displayed last October surely shows that he is more than capable of bouncing back in 2020.

Rafael Devers Takes Justin Verlander Deep as #RedSox Salvage Another Series Against Astros with 4-1 Victory

For the second straight week, the Red Sox entered Sunday down two games to none in their series against the Houston Astros, and the for the second straight week, the Red Sox came away with a series-closing win. They did that first with a 4-3 victory at Fenway Park on May 19th, and then again with a 4-1 victory at Minute Maid Park on Sunday.

Making his 11th start of the season for Boston was Eduardo Rodriguez, whose spot in the rotation did not come up the last time these two clubs met a week ago.

This time around, the left-hander thoroughly impressed Sunday, tossing six innings of one-run ball on four hits, one walk, and one HBP to go along with five strikeouts on the afternoon.

That lone run came in Rodriguez’s first inning of work, when an Aledyms Diaz leadoff single resulted in Houston getting on the board with a two-out RBI infield single off the bat of Saturday’s hero Carlos Correa to plate Diaz from second.

The thing is, that run could have been prevented had Eduardo Nunez, filling in for Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, made a better throw to the plate and  if Christian Vazquez didn’t lose the ball on the attempted tag of Diaz.

Other than that one blip though, Rodriguez had a relatively simple time of things in this one, consistently maneuvering his way around the few baseruners he had to deal with while also receiving some help from his defense.

Retiring 11 of the last 12 hitters he faced, the 26-year-old’s fine day came to a close after getting Yuli Gurriel to pop out to second and end the sixth with his team ahead.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 98 (63 strikes), Rodriguez turned to his four-seam fastball 39% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing two swings and misses and getting 13 called strikes with the pitch. He also topped out at 94.4 MPH with it in the fifth inning.

Improving to 5-3 on the year while lowering his ERA down to 5.04, the Venezuela native provided the Red Sox with a start they very much needed after the whole David Price situation the day before. Rodriguez will look for win number six in his next time out, which will come against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium sometime next weekend.

In relief of Rodriguez, Brandon Workman got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen with a two-run lead to protect going into the bottom half of the seventh.

Making his 26th appearance of the season and first of the series, Workman fanned a pair in a 1-2-3 inning before making way for Matt Barnes in the eighth.

Fresh off of getting walked off on on Saturday night, Barnes did allow the tying run to come to the plate with a one out walk of Tony Kemp, but did recover by sitting down the next two hitters he faced to send this one to the ninth.

And in that ninth and final inning, after his team tacked on an extra insurance run in the top half, Marcus Walden shut the door on the Astros to earn his first save of 2019 and lock up the 4-1 win for the Red Sox.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against veteran right-hander and future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander for the Astros, who like Rodriguez, did not pitch in the series at Fenway Park.

Going down by one run right away in the first, a Steve Pearce leadoff single later turned into Boston’s first run of the afternoon crossing the plate on a one-out sacrifice fly off the bat of Andrew Benintendi to knot this one at one all.

An inning later, Rafael Devers’ hot streak continued, as the 22-year-old led off the fourth by demolishing his seventh home run of the season 423 feet to dead center field to give his team a lead they would not have to look back from.

In the fifth, the Boston bats capitalized on some sloppy defense from the Astros infield, with Nunez scoring all the way from second thanks to Yuli Gurriel misplaying a grounder from Andrew Benintendi, who reached first safely with one out in the inning.

The Astros committed another error in the same time frame courtesy of Alex Bregman over at third, but the Sox were unable to capitalize there.

And finally, in the ninth, more misjudgements allowed Boston to push another run across, with reliever Framber Valdez letting Jackie Bradley Jr. advance to second after drawing a one-out walk and also advance to third on a ball that got past Robinson Chrinos behind the plate.

That particular sequence of miscues set up Eduardo Nunez in a prime RBI spot, and he took full advantage by driving in his club’s final run of the day on an RBI grounder to second which gave Bradley Jr. more than enough time to score from third and make it a 4-1 contest, which would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Some notes from this win:

From Red Sox Notes:

From Red Sox Stats:

From the Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s a quick turn around with a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians set to kick off Monday evening back at Fenway Park.

Coming off a 4-3 road trip, this one home series will be all for the Sox before they head back out on the road again later this week.

Despite their reputation, the Indians are no longer the best team in their division at the moment, as that title currently belongs to the 36-16 Minnesota Twins, while the Tribe sit at an even 26-26.

Right-hander Rick Porcello is set to get the ball for the Red Sox in the series opener, while fellow righty Jefry Rodriguez will do the same for Terry Francona’s Indians.

Over his last seven starts dating back to April 20th, Porcello owns a 2.78 ERA and .196 batting average against over 45.1 innings pitched. The Red Sox are 6-1 in that span.

In 24 career starts against Cleveland, Porcello has posted a lifetime 3.57 ERA over 141 total innings of work.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, has never faced the Red Sox before in his young big league career. The 25-year-old is currently 1-4 with a 4.08 ERA through six starts so far this season.

First pitch Memorial Day Monday is scheduled for a rare 4:05 PM EDT start time on NESN. Red Sox looking to start another winning streak.

#RedSox Recall Top Pitching Prospect Darwinzon Hernandez from Double-A Portland, Option Colten Brewer to Triple-A Pawtucket

Before taking on the Houston Astros for the last time this regular season, the Red Sox have recalled top pitching prospect Darwinzon Hernandez from Double-A Portland while also optioning right-handed reliever Colten Brewer to Triple-A Pawtucket in a corresponding move. The club made the roster move official earlier Sunday morning.

This will mark Hernandez’s second stint with the Red Sox, with the first coming back on April 23rd where the left-hander worked 2.1 scoreless innings of relief serving as the club’s 26th man in the second game of a day-night doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers.

Ranked as Boston’s fourth-best prospect overall per MLB.com, the 22-year-old has posted a 4.65 ERA in seven appearances (six starts) and 31 innings pitched with the Sea Dogs so far in 2019. He also owns a K/9 of 12.8 while holding opposing hitters to a .202 clip.

As MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo notes, Hernandez’s stay with the Sox might be short-lived with utilitu man Brock Holt due to be activated from the 10-day injured list on Monday.

Brewer, meanwhile, will head to the PawSox after making his first big league Opening Day roster with Boston back in March.

Acquired from the San Diego Padres last November, the 26-year-old hurler has posted a 5.32 ERA over 20 games and 22 innings pitched so far this season, including 2.1 scoreless frames of relief Saturday against the Astros.

Eduardo Rodriguez is set to start for the Red Sox Sunday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 2:10 PM EDT on NESN.