FORT MYERS, Fla. — Alex Cora was supposed to manage a spring training game against the Blue Jays Sunday afternoon. He was in Dallas instead with his girlfriend, Angelica, for the weekend, seeing a concert by Dominican superstar Juan Luis Guerra.
“Why not?” Cora said Monday after he returned to Fenway South.
Major League Baseball’s interminable lockout has managers and coaches on pause. They’ve reported to work but have no players to work with.
Cora and his staff arrived here Feb. 15 and met to lay out plans for spring training and the coming season.
With assistant hitting coaches Luis Ortiz and Ben Rosenthal joining the staff over the winter and Ramón Vázquez in a new role as first base coach, that time was useful.
“We’re always on top of it,” Cora said. “That was a good thing because we didn’t have time to meet in the offseason like we usually do. We had a lot of meetings with the [baseball research] department, just learning.”
They’ve also spent time helping coach the minor-league players, which is a delicate process because you don’t want to interfere with the coaches of those teams.
“It’s been good,” said Cora, who is sporting a salt-and-pepper beard. “Just walking around, a few ground balls here and there. Kind of watching.”
For Cora, it has been instructional to get a first-hand look at how the Sox develop players. He’s also impressed with what has become a broader base of talent in the organization the last few years.
“You see it,” he said. “Physical kids, good athletes, good arms, velo[city] is up. It’s one thing to read about it and [another] to see it. We’re in a better place, we are. We have a good program going right now.”
The difficult part for Cora has been being banned from any type of communication with players on the 40-man roster. He typically would be in touch throughout the winter via phone calls, text messages, or social media.
Cora’s managing style has been to forge personal bonds with players, something he believes leads to better communication during the season.
MLB has barred team personnel from even mentioning players by name in interviews.
“It’s hard,” Cora said. “It is what it is, but I still don’t get it. Social media helps to see what they’re doing. But that’s about it. It’s weird.”
Red Sox president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom has allowed the major league coaching staff to come and go in Fort Myers. Cora plans to return to Puerto Rico Thursday to see his 4-year-old twin sons.
If the lockout continues, Cora plans to take a trip to the Red Sox academy in the Dominican Republic to meet with players and staff there. He has not had a chance to visit the complex, which is in El Toro.
“Spend a few days and see it and be part of it,” Cora said. “That would be good for me, and obviously I know how much it means for them.”
As he talked to the small group of reporters on hand, Cora was perched on a small set of bleachers, watching an intrasquad minor league game through a chain-link fence.
He likes what he sees from Marcelo Mayer, saying the Sox were lucky he was still available with the fourth pick of the draft last July. He also is impressed with how 2020 first-round pick Nick Yorke has developed physically in the last year.
“You walk around and you feel good about the future,” Cora said.
. . .
Lefthander Brandon Walter, an unheralded 26th-round pick in 2019, struck out Yorke, Mayer, and Blaze Jordan in order during the intrasquad game . . . Third baseman Alex Binelas, one of the prospects acquired from the Brewers for Hunter Renfroe, has impressed Cora and the other coaches. “How physical he is,” the manager said. “He has a good swing.” Cora also has been impressed by 23-year-old lefthander Chris Murphy, a sixth-round pick in 2019 who ended last season in Portland . . . Methuen native Jake Wallace pitched a perfect inning in the intrasquad game. He’s starting his second full year in the organization after being obtained from the Rockies in 2020. Wallace could start the season in Double A.