FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox have a 2½-hour journey across the state to play the Houston Astros in West Palm Beach on Thursday. The bus is scheduled to leave JetBlue Park at 7:15 a.m.
Usually only two or three regulars would make such a lengthy trip. But when manager Alex Cora made up the travel squad, it included Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers, Rick Porcello, Hanley Ramirez, and Christian Vazquez.
Cora isn’t being subtle. He wants the Red Sox to remember who eliminated them from the playoffs last season. The Astros knocked the Sox out of the Division Series in four games. Houston then went on to win the World Series with Cora as their bench coach.
“I know spring training is not about sending messages or whatever,” Cora said Wednesday. “But for them to go over there . . . it’s a reminder we still have a ways to go.”
Cora was with the Astros for only one season, but it was a memorable one. He quickly bonded with the players, learned much from manager A.J. Hinch and was deeply grateful when owner Jim Crane sent two planes with supplies to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and a third to evacuate families of Astros players and coaches.
“It was a special season, special group,” Cora said. “They text me, and they call me and they FaceTime me. We connected. It was an amazing ride.”
Cora accepted his job with the Red Sox on Oct. 22, two days before the World Series. Once the victory parade was over, the Astros became the opposition.
“Ready to kick their ass,” he said. “It’s a complete team, very athletic; they have a great rotation. They can do it all. It will be cool to go over there.”
Cora said he regularly exchanges text messages with Hinch and still gets advice from him.
Kimbrel back home
Craig Kimbrel, who has yet to appear in a game, returned to Boston on Tuesday. His 3-month-old daughter, Lydia Joy, is undergoing a second surgery to correct a congenital heart defect.
Kimbrel is expected to beaway approximately a week. He will continue his throwing program at Fenway Park.
“Whatever it takes. I don’t have a problem. You have to take care of that first,” Cora said. “We’re behind him.”
Chris Sale is scheduled to start an intrasquad game on Sunday. That lines him up to make five appearances before starting on Opening Day on March 29 at Tampa Bay on regular rest.
The Sox have not formally announced Sale as the Opening Day starter, which is a formality at this point.
David Price is scheduled for Monday, which sets him up for the second game of the season.
Pedroia pitches in
Dustin Pedroia isn’t ready to go through infield drills as he recovers from surgery on his left knee. So he instead manned the ball bucket, catching throws at second base from teammates. But Pedroia was able to take batting practice on the field for the first time . . . Cora on Rick Porcello: “He works; he cares. He’s one of those leaders [in the clubhouse]. They follow him. There are a lot of guys in there who see Rick Porcello as the guy to follow.” . . . Hanley Ramirez predicted he would hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases this season. “Write that down, you watch,” he told a reporter. Ramirez had 33 home runs and 35 steals in 2008 when he was 24. He is now 34.