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Alex Cora on MFB on Rusney Castillo: ‘No doubt he’s going to be a solid hitter in the big leagues’ 02.12.15 at 12:18 pm ET
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Former Red Sox player and current Criollos de Caguas winter ball manager Alex Cora joined Middays with MFB on Thursday to talk about Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo, who he managed for 10 games this past winter. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Cora had nothing but good things to say about Castillo, who in 10 games with Criollos de Caguas under Cora’s watch, hit .405 after coming back from a thumb injury suffered in the Arizona Fall League.

“He has a great approach,” said Cora. “He only played 10 games for us and to be honest with you, I don’t know how many hits he had, but everything was back up the middle or to right center. As you guys know, if he keeps that approach for a long period of time, you’re going to hit for average. I was very surprised with that. Usually with the guys we’ve seen from Cuba coming to the big leagues they are dead pull hitters, very aggressive, a little bit out of control. He was the total opposite.

“Talking to him offensively, he said he was working with [Red Sox asst. hitting coach] Victor Rodriguez at the end of the year with the leg kick. In the beginning he had a little bit of trouble getting it down on time, but the more he played the better he was. I have no doubt he’s going to be a solid hitter in the big leagues.”

With a crowded Red Sox outfield, and Castillo’s ability to play multiple positions, there has been some questions of where Castillo is best served to play in the field. Cora said no doubt he’s a center fielder, where he played 10 games in the big leagues last September. Cora noted some of the in-game adjustments he was able to make during his time playing for him this past winter.

“He’ll be a center fielder,” Cora said. “He will be a center fielder in the big leagues. I know the decision is for John [Farrell] and for Ben [Cherington] to make. The way he reads bats and the way he gets jumps, he’s a very athletic guy. We thought coming in when he came down everyone was talking about how raw he was, especially defensively. He used to play in the infield and he made an adjustment right away. He was a guy that we would give him the scouting report and after the third inning you could see he was taking charge. He was moving the right fielder, he was moving the left fielder, he was playing shallow, he was playing deep — he was making adjustments with the game and that was a great thing to see.”

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Read More: Alex Cora, Rusney Castillo,
Alex Cora offers a scouting report on Javier Vazquez 01.03.13 at 10:50 pm ET
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Former big league infielder Alex Cora, who spent 14 years in the big leagues including four with the Red Sox from 2005-08, is now serving as the general manager of the Caguas Criollos of the Puerto Rican Winter League. Cora assembled a team that cruised to the best record in the regular season, giving him the first pick in an end-of-season draft of the players who were on the two teams that didn’t qualify for the playoff round robin.

That pick, in turn, offered a fairly obvious prize: veteran big leaguer Javier Vazquez.

The 36-year-old hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011, choosing to stay at home for the 2012 season. But Vazquez, who sports a career 165-160 record and 4.22 ERA in 14 big league seasons, stayed in shape in 2012 by playing tennis and doing various cross-training activities, putting him in a position to prepare to pitch for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic this spring. As part of that preparation, Vazquez has now pitched in five winter league games, forging a 3.52 ERA with 30 strikeouts and six walks in 23 innings for Ponce before Cora selected him to join Caguas for the playoffs.

In the process, he’s looked, according to Cora, like the same pitcher who dominated in the big leagues at the end of 2011. Vazquez was 5-0 with a 0.71 ERA, 36 strikeouts and three walks in 38 innings for the Marlins in September 2011, earning NL Pitcher of the Month honors in his last month in the big leagues. That was the culmination of a stretch of 19 season-ending starts in 2011, during which Vazquez went 10-5 with a 1.92 ERA, 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings and just 1.4 walks per nine.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Alex Cora, anthony ranaudo, javier vazquez,
The creator of Cinco Ocho, Alex Cora, explains how Jonathan Papelbon found his alter ego 05.18.12 at 6:02 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Friday afternoon, Jonathan Papelbon was in the mood to offer some introductions — Philly media, meet Cinco Ocho.

Anxious about facing your old team? “Cinco don’€™t feel that kind of pressure. He’€™s got ice in his veins, man.”

How would Mr. Ocho like it if the game was in Boston? “He’€™d probably like it more. That’€™s just how he is, you know. It’€™s just, it’€™s what he does.”

How would the reception at Fenway Park be? “I think Pap would get a really good reception. Cinco, I don’€™t know what kind of reception he would get.”

That led to the obvious question from those not familiar with Papelbon’s alter ego …

“He came in 2007. Alex Cora brought him into existence, and he’€™s been a pain in my ass ever since,” Papelbon explained. “He just showed up, out of the blue. My skin started itching, it was crazy. … He kind of created the monster. It’€™s a long story, man.”

It’s a story that the recently retired Cora, when reached by phone, corroborated.

“It was during our fantasy league draft in ‘€™07. He was so infatuated with [NFL wide receiver] Ocho Cino. He was dying to get Ocho Cinco. That’€™s all he talked about, Ocho Cinco, Ocho Cinco, Ocho Cinco,” explained Cora, who played with Papelbon from 2006-08. “So I started calling him Cinco Ocho. That’€™s his alter ego, we all know that. The story goes something like that.

“He ran away with it. I read something where he said, ‘€˜Cinco’€™s always ready.’€™ Now he’€™s only Cinco. What a clown. The way he is, when he gets ready for the game it’€™s something else. We’€™re joking about it, but he loves it. Cinco Ocho the guy who is pitching.”

Cora went on to sum it up this way: “Cinco Ohco is the closer of the Phillies, not Jonathan Papelbon. He’€™s such a goofy guy and such a good person, but as soon as the game starts ‘€¦. Cinco Ocho lasts until the cold tub after the game. Once he cools down he becomes Jonathan Papelbon.”

Read More: Alex Cora, cinco ocho, Jonathan Papelbon,
Cora close to deal with Mets 11.30.09 at 1:11 pm ET
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According to a source familiar with the negotiations, former Red Sox infielder Alex Cora is close to a one-year deal with a vesting option for  second with the New York Mets. The deal, which would guarantee the 34-year-old the same $2 million he made in ’09 during at least the initial year of the contract, is expected to be finalized upon Cora passing a physical.

Cora played in 82 games with the Mets in ’09 before injuries cut short his season. He hit .251 for the season, playing 56 games at shortstop, 19 at second base and one at first base.

Cora spent most of the year trying to play with torn ligaments in both thumbs. His right thumb was the first to endure injury in mid-May, and his production steadily declined over the year. With Jose Reyes out, Cora became the Mets’ primary shortstop early in the year, hitting .333 with a .435 OBP and .886 OPS in 66 plate appearances prior to his right thumb injury. After returning from the D.L., he hit .232/.290/.277/.567 before undergoing season-ending surgery in mid-August. He ended 2009 with a .251/.320/.310/.630 line.

Cora played in parts of four seasons with the Red Sox before becoming a free agent following the 2008 season. Though the Red Sox are still in the market for a shortstop, they did not express interest in bringing Cora back to Boston.

Read More: Alex Cora, Mets,
What Alex Cora Means for the Julio Lugo Market 06.10.09 at 12:58 pm ET
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Alex Cora spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons as the back-up to Julio Lugo. But right now, the former Red Sox utilityman has helped to ensure that the Mets don’t need to contemplate a desperate move, which is how the Mets and virtually everyone else in Major League Baseball would view the acquisition of Lugo.

Jose Reyes has a torn hamstring tendon, and so, as Newsday reports, the dynamic Mets shortstop is likely sidelined for about a month. Cora, who was acquired by the Mets (on a one-year, $2 million deal) this offseason in part because the Mets imagined that he would be a perfect complement and mentor to Reyes (and outfield prospect Fernando Martinez), has been pressed into starting duty for the Mets. And he’s responded.

Cora, who has started four of the last five games for the Mets since returning from the disabled list on June 4, is hitting .304 with a .402 OBP. He has played his usual excellent defense, and has also earned enormous respect from his Mets teammates for playing through a painful thumb injury, as detailed in the New York Times yesterday.

As such, though one major-league source suggested that the Mets consider themselves in “dire straits” with regards to their shortstop situation, New York’s National League club is “not quite (so) desperate” as to have interest in Lugo. Multiple sources indicate that Lugo is available on the trade market, though the likelihood of a trade involving the shortstop, who still has roughly $15 million left on a contract that runs through 2010, seems very, very slim.

Read More: Alex Cora, Julio Lugo,
Rios foiled again 05.21.09 at 8:02 pm ET
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Nobody has chronicled Jason Bay’s opposite field power better than our own Alex Speier, but unfortunate Alex isn’t here at Fenway Park tonight to chronicle Bay’s latest blast the other way. You’ll have to settle for me. This time the HR didn’t come close to the 413-foot, May 7 monstrosity over the Red Sox‘ bullpen, instead bouncing off the top of the wall just in front of the Sox’ relievers. Truth be told, Blue Jays’ right fielder Alex Rios should have caught.

The home run made it 3-0 and marked the 11th straight time Bay’s home run has come with runners on base (as first referenced by our own Gary from Chapel Hill) breaking the single-season Red Sox record and bringing him within one of the all-time mark shared by Ken Griffey Jr. and Hank Aaron. David Ortiz had originally gotten the Sox on the board earlier in the first inning with a ground out that scored Jacoby Ellsbury, who led off the Sox’ half of the frame with a double down the first base line.

In case you forgot, Rios’ misadventures at Fenway previously included swatting an Alex Cora fly ball into the right field stands back on Aug. 31, 2006. It was Cora’s lone Fenway Park home run in 400 regular season plate appearances.

Read More: Alex Cora, Alex Rios, jason bay,
Cora close to deal with Mets 01.13.09 at 11:17 pm ET
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Former Red Sox infielder Alex Cora is close to finalizing a one-year, $2 million deal with the New York Mets. The 33-year-old Cora played with Boston from July 7, 2005 — when he was traded from Cleveland for infielder Ramon Vazquez — through last season.

Cora played in 75 games with the Red Sox last season, hitting .270 with a .371 on-base percentage. The infielder, who did a stint on the 15-day disabled list with a strained elbow, served as the starting shortstop for the Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

Cora signed a two-year, $4 million deal with the Red Sox following the 2006 season. The Scott Boras client did make one last call to the Red Sox Tuesday night to gauge the team’s interest, but with the presence of Julio Lugo and Jed Lowrie there didn’t prove to be a fit.

Read More: Alex Cora, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets,
Buchholz will search in Portland 08.20.08 at 9:22 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — Yesterday I posted that Clay Buchholz might have found something in his delivery which could lead to bigger and better things. Back to the drawing board.

After their 11-6 loss to the Orioles, Wednesday night, Boston is now 3-12 in Buchholz starts, and 70-39 when everybody else starts. Buchholz will be on an eight-game losing streak, the longest since Frank Castillo’s 2002 horror show.

To see some post-game reaction from Buchholz, who was sent to Double A Portland following the game, CLICK HERE.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Buchholz threw 60 pitches (30 strikes) over 2 1/3 innings, giving up five runs on three hits with three walks. We could go on, but it isn’t all that interesting. The simple fact is that Buchholz has to rediscover his confidence before this becomes a Craig Hansen-esque progression. Speaking of Hansen, he has pitched in six games with Pittsburgh, notching a 2.70 ERA with a 1.82 batting average against, although he has walked six in 6.2 innings.

Getting your mind off the obvious, before the game talk turned to some of the best pickoff moves in the game. Before some of the doubts he is laboring with entered his mind, Buchholz was one of the best for a righty. Red Sox manager Terry Francona identified Chris Michalak and Ed Vosberg, both lefties, as two of the best he has seen. But which righty had the best move?

The answer might be Jamey Wright, who surpassed Jack McDowell for the most pickoffs by a right-handed pitcher, this season, notching his 54th. As for Buchholz, Red Sox manager Terry Francona mentioned again after the game about how even the young hurler’s pickoff move wasn’t all there compared to last season, but the coaching staff hesitated to harp on the righty throwing over at ill-advised moments for fear of heaping even more pressure on his already seemingly overloaded shoulders.

Two things from the game you might be wondering about. First, Coco Crisp’s attempt at Ramon Hernandez’ homer over the centerfield wall in which the outfielder leaped onto, and then over, the fence, flipping himself over the barrier. After missing the ball by what he estimated was about six inches, Crisp immediately sprung off the base behind the ball and back on to the field.

“I knew it was padded,” said Crisp of what awaited him behind the wall, “I’m no daredevil.”

And then there was Alex Cora warming up in the bullpen during the eighth inning, with the Red Sox trailing by six runs. Francona said that if the Sox hadn’t scored in the eighth, it was likely Cora would make an appearance. The infielder hadn’t pitched since high school, but he had warmed up before.

Cora warmed up on Aug. 18, 2005 in Anaheim as reliever Mike Remlinger was giving up five runs in two innings. “I didn’t feel that great,” the infielder said of his warm-up tosses.

Jason Bay’s 430-foot, solo home run came on a 3-1 pitch and was his fourth homer with the Red Sox, and 26th overall. By the way, Bay’s sister’s Canadian national softball team was eliminated from the Olympics Tuesday.

Read More: Alex Cora, Clay Buchholz, Coco Crisp, Craig Hansen
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