SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Red Sox manager Alex Cora is one of the key figures into Major League Baseball’s investigation of the Houston Astros, an appraisal that goes beyond charges of sign stealing in 2017.
Cora, who was bench coach of the Astros in 2017, has spoken to officials charged with determining to what degree Houston flouted rules against using cameras to pick up signs from opposing catchers.
MLB is also examining whether the Astros used electronic equipment to aid sign stealing in subsequent seasons and, if so, how sophisticated that equipment was. That includes postseason games.
Asked about the investigation Thursday, Cora told the Globe, “At this time MLB and the Astros are conducting an investigation. It would be irresponsible on my part to comment while it’s going on.”
MLB’s fact-finding also will include an interview with Red Sox bullpen coach Craig Bjornson, who spent six seasons with the Astros before joining the Sox in 2018.
“We have been contacted by MLB and are fully cooperating with the league’s investigation,” Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said.
As first reported by The Athletic, the Astros allegedly used an outfield camera to pick up signs from the catcher. Watching from a monitor close to the dugout, an Astros player or staffer would make a loud noise to signal the hitter what was coming.
Opposing teams have long been suspicious of the Astros and took steps, particularly in the postseason, to use multiple signs that could not be decoded before the pitch was thrown.
“Beginning in the 2017 season, numerous clubs expressed general concerns that other clubs were stealing their signs,” MLB said in a statement. “As a result of those concerns, and after receiving extensive input from the general managers, we issued a revised policy on sign stealing prior to the 2019 season.
“We also put in place detailed protocols and procedures to provide comfort to clubs that other clubs were not using video during the game to decode and steal signs. After we review this new information we will determine any necessary next steps.”
New Mets manager Carlos Beltran, who played for the Astros in 2017 and is one of Cora’s closest friends, denied any involvement in the scheme.
Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said, “At this point, I don’t see any reason why this is a Mets situation.”
Privately, Red Sox officials feel the same way, that MLB is looking more at the overarching behavior and practices of the Astros as an organization and is unlikely to levy any punishment on Cora.
In 2017, the Red Sox were caught using a Fitbit device to relay signals to the dugout and were fined. No individuals were sanctioned. MLB determined that the front office was not involved, sparing the Red Sox harsher penalties.
MLB has since indicated that penalties, up to the loss of draft picks, could be handed down to teams deemed in violation of the league’s policy involving the use of electronic equipment to steal signs.