Alex Cora has always enjoyed the chance to connect with other New England professional coaches and celebrate their accomplishments. And in the case of the 2021-22 Celtics, the Red Sox can take inspiration in that team’s advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
After all, Cora was in Boston over the winter, when the Celtics were stuck in neutral and there were widespread calls to dismantle the team’s core. Instead, the Celtics preserved their nucleus, altered the supporting cast, and tightened aspects of their game to transform from mediocrity to dominance.
It is a script, Cora said, that is important to consider in his team’s own disappointing start.
“One hundred percent. At one point, people were screaming to break that team up. And now they’re in the conference finals,” he said. “I think patience paid off.
“It’s a long season, and everything can happen. We’re very talented. We know that, but we’ve got to be consistent.
“This is a sport of streaks. You have to avoid the losing ones and get hot, like, three times a year to get that long one. You learn from what you have around and you take off from there.”
Cora reached out to both Celtics coach Ime Udoka and president of basketball operations Brad Stevens to congratulate them on dispatching the Bucks. His ability to relate to both, given his experience as a manager and theirs as coaches, is obvious.
But it’s possible that, down the road, Cora might consider the same transition Stevens made last summer, moving from the dugout to a front-office role. Cora said that his professional future will be dictated first and foremost by his family dynamics, but down the road, the idea of working in a front office could hold appeal.
“I’m not here to manage 25 years. I don’t see that. This is a very demanding job and obviously the sacrifices that family made, it’s a lot,” said Cora, who has been a GM for the Caguas Criollos in the Puerto Rican Winter League and also served in that capacity for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
“We’ll see. It’s something that obviously intrigues me, just thinking as a GM and building teams. But I think the family part of it is going to decide if I do this for a long, long time or I do something different in the future.”
Jeremy Peña gets his homecoming
Though rookie Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña was not in Monday’s lineup due to a knee injury, the Providence native — who is hitting .276/.339/.514, with an .853 OPS that leads all qualifying rookies — had a large contingent on hand for his first trip to Fenway as a big leaguer.
“His mom put a little pressure on me,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker. “His mom asked me, ‘Is Jeremy going to play today, because we have 1,000 people coming from Rhode Island.’ ”
Peña continues to improve, and the Astros are hopeful he’ll be able to play in the series against the Red Sox.
Also at Fenway Monday: Mauricio Dubón, a 2013 26th-round Red Sox draftee who was traded to the Brewers in December 2016 in the ill-fated deal for Tyler Thornburg. The Astros acquired him two days ago in a trade with the Giants. Dubon was considered a leader in the Sox system while coming up with a young wave of talent that included Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, and Yoán Moncada.
Josh Taylor frustrated, but getting closer to season debut
Lefthander Josh Taylor, who was placed on the 60-day injured list in early May after suffering a setback in his return from a lower back injury, resumed throwing in recent days.
“I’m feeling good. I’m definitely getting better,” said Taylor, who is throwing at about 75 feet on flat ground. “My arm feels like it’s in a really good spot. So now it’s just a matter of getting back into game speed.”
A year ago, Taylor made 61 appearances for the Red Sox, working to a 3.40 ERA while striking out 29 percent of the batters he faced. Now, the lefthander’s best case scenario is likely a return in late June, a reality that he’s had to accept.
“It sucks. I promise you no one is more frustrated than I am,” said Taylor. “[But] you’ve just got to keep your head up and roll with the punches.”
Houston’s Jake Odorizzi carted off
Astros starter Jake Odorizzi was carted off the field after suffering a left leg injury on the final play of the fifth inning. With two outs and none on, the Astros righthander induced a grounder to first. As he sprinted off the mound to cover first, he collapsed face-first on the turf and writhed in pain as Astros trainers sprinted to him. A stretcher and cart were summoned. The Astros described the injury only as “lower left leg discomfort,” with further updates expected. Odorizzi allowed two runs on three hits over five innings before suffering the injury . . . Righthander Brayan Bello, the top Red Sox pitching prospect, has been promoted from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Worcester, according to multiple team sources. Bello was 4-2 with a 1.60 ERA in 33⅔ innings in Double A this year, a run that included a 13-inning hitless stretch across three outings. “He’s proven that he could dominate that level,” said one evaluator. Bello, who turns 23 on Tuesday, typically features a four-seam fastball and sinker that run from 96-98 miles per hour, along with a changeup and slider that he uses to get swings and misses. Righthanded reliever Andrew Politi (2.03 ERA, 38 percent strikeout rate in 13⅓ innings with Portland) is also moving up to the WooSox . . . Righthander Michael Wacha (3-0, 1.38 ERA in 5 starts), who was placed on the injured list due to left intercostal irritation on May 8, threw roughly 35 pitches over a pair of simulated innings against teammate Christian Arroyo and bench coach Will Venable on Monday afternoon, using his full pitch mix. Cora expressed hope that Wacha could be activated and return to the rotation on either Friday or Saturday against the Mariners . . . The Red Sox are trying to figure out why opposing hitters seem to be getting a better read on righthander Tanner Houck. He’s recorded swings-and-misses on just 10.7 percent of his pitches this year, down from 14.0 percent in 2020-21. In particular, hitters seem not to be chasing his slider as they were a year ago. In addition to the examination of Houck’s mechanics and pitch data by pitching coach Dave Bush and bullpen coach Kevin Walker, Cora looked at video on Monday to see if Houck was tipping his slider . . . Chris Sale, whose throwing program was stopped earlier this month for what the team described as a non-baseball-related, non-COVID medical issue, has started playing catch again in Fort Myers . . . Lefthander James Paxton, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery he underwent last April, has yet to resume throwing since he was shut down with elbow soreness.