FORT MYERS, Fla. — Alex Cora was in Miami last week to attend an alumni function at the University of Miami and participate in fund-raising activities for the Ari Arteaga Foundation.
The Red Sox manager theoretically had a few days off before spring training formally opened. But Cora was soon driving west on Alligator Alley toward JetBlue Park.
“Just looking forward to get to work and have fun this spring,” Cora said Monday after watching an informal workout.
Chris Sale was among the pitchers who threw off the mound, and Cora was in the bullpen to take a look. He then walked over to the adjacent agility field to watch players run sprints.
Monday was a day for hugs and hellos. The instruction will start Wednesday when pitchers and catchers have their first workout.
“Just being around today, I’m very excited,” Cora said. “It sounds cool to say everybody is in great shape and ready to roll.
“To do this thing, we have to turn the page, and when your big boys — David [Price] and Chris and Nate [Eovaldi] and Rick [Porcello] and Mookie [Betts], J.D. [Martinez] — that’s all they talk about, looking forward to 2019. That makes it easier for me to sit down with these guys and send a message.”
Cora said that message would be different this season after winning the World Series. But the goal is to set high expectations in much the same way he did a year ago.
As to one specific issue, Cora spoke in general terms. He declined to say whether Matt Barnes or Ryan Brasier would replace free agent Craig Kimbrel as the closer.
“For me, it’s too early to answer that one,” Cora said. “I have to talk to the players first before I answer that. We have some capable guys that can get outs in the seventh, eighth, and ninth inning.
“What Barnesie did last year was amazing. If you start looking where he pitched during the regular season and during the playoffs, getting the three, four, or fifth [batter] from the seventh inning on, he was amazing.”
Outside of righthander Colten Brewer, who had 11 major league games with the San Diego Padres, the Sox have yet to add any relievers to their 40-man roster to replace Kimbrel, who remains unsigned, and Joe Kelly, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But Cora believes the minor league players in camp have potential.
“We’ve got some stuff,” he said. “Today I saw a few guys, interesting guys, that we do feel that their stuff is going to play at the big-league level.
“We have the whole spring training to figure out how. But as far as talent, I do feel there’s a lot of good stuff there. Good fastballs and breaking balls. The way we attack hitters, we have to mold these guys and maximize their abilities. It’ll be a fun spring training as far as that.”
Pedroia on the way
Dustin Pedroia told USA Today last week that he wanted to win the Comeback Player of the Year award after missing all but three games last season.
“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Cora said with a smile.
While his braggadocio is apparently fine, the Sox want to see how Pedroia’s left knee is. He is scheduled to arrive in the next few days, earlier than expected.
“He feels he’s in a good spot,” Cora said. “We’ll see him here; we’ll see how we’re going to work with him. Obviously we have to take care of him, but at the same time we have to push him. He’s ready for that.”
Oft-injured lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez arrived at camp having added upper-body muscle.
“Eddie looks great physically,” Cora said. “Everybody’s in the best shape of their life when they come to spring training. But he actually is in the best shape of his life.
“For the first time in a while, he was able to have a normal offseason. You can see it in his body.”
Back in the swing
That Marco Hernandez took some swings in the batting cage Monday was a hopeful sign. The 26-year-old infielder, once a promising hitter, is close to fully recovered from a left shoulder injury that required three rounds of surgery.
Hernandez spent the winter in Boston doing rehabilitation work and is on target to swing at live pitching before the end of the month. He has not played in a game since May 3, 2017.
“Everything is much better,” Hernandez said. “I’ve done a lot of work.”
Hernandez was the player to be named later when the Sox traded Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs in 2014.
Position players aren’t scheduled to report until Sunday but Brock Holt checked into camp and was on the field . . . Steven Wright arrived over the weekend and has been playing catch with a brace on his surgically repaired left knee . . . It was hard to tell on his foul-pole frame, but Cora said Sale gained weight . . . The Sox will use a sixth starter to start the season for at least one turn. They have an 11-game West Coast trip to start the season . . . Cora said he remains undecided whether to visit the White House on May 9.