On Tuesday night, Fenway Park hosted the latest performance by a national chorus of fanbases voicing contempt for the Astros. Throughout the game, fans expressed their disgust about the sign-stealing practices employed by the 2017 Astros in their championship season, with particular scorn directed at three of the most prominent members of that club: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa.
The sentiments were loud, profane, and to Alex Cora — the Red Sox manager who, as Astros bench coach in 2017, played a significant role in the sign-stealing scheme — extremely uncomfortable.
“On a personal level, [it was] tough to swallow, tough to hear it, because at the end, I was part of that. I was part of the 2017 Astros and I was part of the whole sign-stealing situation,” said Cora. “Them being booed and screamed at the way they did, I was part of that, too.”
Cora said after the Red Sox endured their 7-1 loss, he spent time mulling the crowd reaction at home. It was the first time that he got a taste, even if indirectly, of what his former players have experienced this year.
“I was like, ‘Wow.’ It was tough,” said Cora, who noted that Red Sox utilityman Marwin Gonzalez, a member of the 2017 Astros, likewise was jarred. “The fact that there were boos like that, that kind of like hit me, too.
“I already talked to some of [the Astros], and it’s been tougher in other places. The New York thing is really tough on them, and they understand why,” he added. “I’m not saying here stop booing because I’m here, because at the end, I know there’s a lot of people who boo them because they’re good, too. They’re the Houston Astros. But at the same time, most of the people are doing it because of what happened in ’17. . . . It was a tough one for me last night.”
Matt Barnes open to continuing contract extension talks
For the second straight year, Matt Barnes and the Red Sox discussed the possibility of a contract extension in spring training. Though those conversations did not end in an agreement, Barnes — eligible for free agency after this season — said he was open to contract talks with the club during the season.
“There were numbers exchanged [in spring training]. It was definitely serious enough. It wasn’t just one or two phone calls,” said Barnes. “Absolutely, I would be open to [discussing an extension], but I can tell you firmly nothing has happened. We haven’t had any discussions since spring training.
“I’ve always been a firm believer that listening to information is always free, whether that’s in baseball or life,” Barnes added. “If they want to have a conversation, I’m sure that’s something my agent and I can discuss and see if anything comes of that. But as of right now, nothing has happened.”
Barnes, who turns 31 next week, is amidst an All-Star-caliber campaign in his first extended run as a closer. He is second in the American League with 14 saves and a 49.5 percent strikeout rate. Opponents have a .136 average, .200 on-base, and .227 slugging mark against him.
What’s next for Chris Sale?
If Chris Sale’s 25-pitch bullpen session at Fenway on Tuesday represented the equivalent of a pitcher in late-January form, roughly a week or two away from the start of spring training in his throwing program, what lies ahead for the lefthander?
“[His bullpen sessions] will increase by duration, they will increase by intensity, he’ll add more and more off-speed pitches, at some point he’ll do an up-and-down, and then he’ll face hitters,” outlined pitching coach Dave Bush. “I don’t know the dates for each of those steps, but that’s the path we’re on. Once all that happens, he’ll start a rehab assignment and build up from there.”
The Red Sox have been extremely encouraged by Sale’s recent progress.
“For the first time in a long time, we’re talking about pitching,” said Bush. “We’re not talking about a body part that is not feeling good.”
Alex Verdugo sits again
Alex Verdugo missed a second straight game with what Cora characterized as tightness in the outfielder’s back. The manager said that he expects Verdugo to be back in the lineup on Thursday . . . Catcher Kevin Plawecki, who left Tuesday’s game with a jaw contusion from a pitch that kicked off the dirt, told Cora that he’s having some difficulty chewing with the left side of his mouth but is otherwise fine. He was available on Wednesday, but did not play in the 8-3 loss . . . With Plawecki out on Tuesday night, gameplanning coordinator Jason Varitek lent a hand by squatting behind the plate to warm up pitchers between innings. “Before he went out, he said, ‘God help me,’ ” laughed Cora. “It’s not that easy. But he’s the captain, man. He’s willing to do whatever for this team” . . . The Red Sox announced plans to celebrate Boston’s LGBTQ community with Pride Night on Thursday. The first 1,000 fans who purchase tickets at redsox.com/pride will receive a free Progress Pride “B” T-shirt. Proceeds from the sales will benefit Boston Pride.