LAS VEGAS — The Red Sox won 108 games and then the World Series with Mookie Betts batting leadoff last season. Betts was named the American League Most Valuable Player a few weeks later.
Manager Alex Cora plans to change what worked.
Cora revealed Tuesday that Andrew Benintendi will hit leadoff with Betts second next season. It’s a discussion that has been going since the end of the season.
“We can’t expect that is going to be the same thing next year. We have to make adjustments,” Cora said at the Winter Meetings.
Cora and assistant general manager Zack Scott, the team’s analytics chief, believe Betts can be even more productive hitting second. The feeling was he became too passive late in the season.
The switch also will dramatically cut down the 409 plate appearances Betts had with the bases empty.
“What I wanted from him in the leadoff spot we accomplished,” Cora said. “It’s a different season and we have to make adjustments, and that’s where we’re going to go.”
The downside is that Betts had a .439 on-base percentage when batting first. Benintendi has a career OBP of .359. But batting in front of Betts should improve that.
“It’s not that we did it wrong last year. It worked for us. But it’s a new season,” Cora said. “We have to turn the page, and I think that’s a good way to do it.”
Jackie Bradley Jr. recently went to California to work with Craig Wallenbrock, one of J.D. Martinez’s hitting coaches.
Betts and Christian Vazquez are planning to make the same trip, either with Martinez or on their own.
To varying degrees, Betts, Bradley, and Vazquez incorporated some of Martinez’s hitting philosophies last season. Bradley clearly benefited.
After hitting .192 with a .578 OPS through 52 games, he hit .257 with a .790 OPS over the remaining 92 games he played.
The Sox feel it was a start of what will be consistent offensive production from Bradley.
“Looking forward to Jackie the whole season. That’s going to be cool,” Cora said. “He felt it and he understands who he is now and I don’t think the roller coaster Jackie Bradley will happen again. He understands who he is. And with that offensive approach over 162 games, we’ll see what happens.”
That the process has already started was meaningful to Cora.
“There’s something about this group,” he said. “I don’t want to say it’s unfinished business because we did an outstanding job and we’re the World Series champs. But they’re looking ahead.”
The Sox plan to use Nathan Eovaldi, Rick Porcello, David Price, and Chris Sale sparingly in spring training coming off the postseason. As they build up, the Sox will open the season with a six-man rotation for at least one turn.
That would give the five top starters an extra day off before their second start. The two consecutive days off before the series in London in June will build in another break.
“It’s a different schedule. But like last year, we’ll take advantage of certain days, reset the rotation,” Cora said. “We’re thinking about how we’re going to do it.”
With Eovaldi coming back, the Sox also can split up their lefthanded starters.
Devers has a plan
Rafael Devers has hired a personal trainer and nutritionist and promised to return to the team in better condition. Cora will see him this weekend at a youth clinic in Puerto Rico. Other staffers will visit Devers in the Dominican Republic this month to monitor his progress. “He’s into it right away. He’s only 22. He’s learning,” Cora said. Devers hit .240 last season and committed 24 errors at third base . . . According to major league sources, the Red Sox have reached agreement on a minor league deal with 31-year-old outfielder Gorkys Hernandez. Hernandez hit .234/.285/.391 and played all three outfield spots for the Giants in 142 games last year. He’d make a salary of $1 million if added to the big league roster . . . President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he tried to trade for Padres righthander Colten Brewer in July before finally landing him on Nov. 20. The Sox feel the 26-year-old reliever had a lot of potential . . . Special assistants Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek are among those in the large Red Sox contingent attending the meetings. Martinez recently signed a new contract to stay with TBS as an analyst during the postseason . . . Dombrowski has made it clear he wants to trade one of the team’s three catchers instead of wedging them into the roster. The hope, he said, would be to accomplish that before spring training.
Staff writer Alex Speier contributed to this report. Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.