FORT MYERS, Fla. — Manager Alex Cora has a chip on his shoulder this year. He says he has something to prove.
“I always have,” Cora said before the Red Sox’ final spring training game Tuesday. “Some people like it, some people don’t. I’ve just got to get locked in on my group and just keep pushing them. We finished last last year. That’s not acceptable. I’m not here to finish last, I’m here to win championships.”
The message was clear and direct, fitting for the last day of spring training. The Red Sox ended last season with a 78-84 record, stamping their fifth last-place finish in 11 years. Cora didn’t want to say that he’s more locked in than in years past, but he did say he has some extra motivation.
“I got a lot of reasons to guide this team,” Cora said. “There were a lot of things that happened in the offseason that I took personally. It’s not baseball-related. I think it’s life-related. And I think if I needed a chip on my shoulder, I just got another one.”
Cora did not elaborate on what or who it was that motivated him. At the beginning of camp, Cora was forced to revisit his past when the book “Winning Fixes Everything” was released, detailing his involvement in the 2017 Astros cheating scandal. The release date, Feb. 14, also happened to be the same day as Cora’s first media availability of camp.
On the field, Cora likes his lineup. He believes it’s better than many are giving it credit for. The additions of Masataka Yoshida, Adam Duvall, Justin Turner, and a more experienced Triston Casas should help. Yet there are still some legitimate question marks.
There might be an adjustment period for Yoshida, though he made an encouraging first impression, beginning in the World Baseball Classic and ending with a two-run homer off the Braves’ Charlie Morton Tuesday. Casas homered, too.
But what will a full season of Casas look like after other teams adjust to his approach? Can Turner, who is 38 years old, stay healthy? Or Duvall, who is coming off wrist surgery?
The Sox need some thump in their lineup, but just one hitter (Rafael Devers) had more than 15 homers in the majors last year. Yoshida hit 28 in the Nippon Professional Baseball league.
A lot of the success depends on their rotation, too, namely Chris Sale.
Yet Cora is ready to take on all the questions, understanding why some of them exist.
“From a personal level, I’m ready for this regardless of the outcome,” Cora said. “I’m very prepared. And, obviously, if I’m in the media business, I’ll be saying the same thing about the group. No doubt about it. We have to be better. We’re surrounded by a lot of good teams. I’m very prepared for this one.”
See you Thursday.
Duran sent down
Outfielder Jarren Duran was optioned to Triple A Worcester. Duran batted .333 with a homer in nine games after missing a chunk of time because of the World Baseball Classic. The move cleared space for Raimel Tapia, according to a source. Tapia came into camp on a minor league deal and put on an impressive showing, batting .326 with five doubles and two homers in 17 games. To make room for Tapia on the 40-man roster, the Sox will likely place infielder Adalberto Mondesi (ACL) on the 60-day injured list. The Sox have one more roster spot, which will be filled by a reliever … The Red Sox will have Corey Kluber on the mound against the Orioles’ Kyle Gibson Thursday … The Red Sox went 10-9 vs. the Orioles last season … Rule 5 draftee Andrew Politi was designated for assignment by the Orioles. The righthander cleared waivers, and as a result, returned to the Red Sox.
Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.