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Alex Cora on Bradfo Show: ‘Defensively, [Blake Swihart’s] not ready, and they know it. Game-calling, he’s not ready’ 04.15.16 at 10:58 am ET
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Alex Cora

Alex Cora

Former Red Sox infielder and current ESPN baseball analyst Alex Cora appeared on the Bradfo Show podcast on Thursday to discuss several early storylines this season. To hear the interview, check the WEEI audio on demand page.

With the Red Sox rotation struggling to find its way early in the season, many have looked to young catcher Christian Vazquez as a possible solution. He has been praised for his work defensively and is revered as a terrific game-caller behind the plate. He was called up after a rehab stint in Triple-A Pawtucket, and it appears he will get his chance to make an impact.

“I hope he gets a lot of games out there, and I’m not talking about catching one guy or two guys, I think he’s the guy that, he needs to catch four out of five days to get that rhythm, to get that confidence, and get that pitching staff going,” Cora said. “I feel that way. A lot of people probably don’t feel the same, but I really do.”

Added Cora: “He is that good. Blocking balls, taking charge, he’s a game-changer behind the plate, he is. I read a few people that say, ‘Yeah, [Blake] Swihart, he can hit, he can do this,’ and God bless him. He’s a great talent. He’s great. But defensively he’s not ready, and they know it. Game-calling, he’s not ready.”

Outfielder Rusney Castillo has yet to find his way as a major league hitter, despite his high price tag. Cora, who has trained Castillo in the offseason, said getting him reps at the plate is essential.

“The question mark is can he hit at the big league level,” Cora said. “But to keep him on the bench and not get in any at-bats and having [Chris] Young as your right-handed hitter against lefties, there’s not a platoon situation with him, and everybody wants to know if this guy can hit.”

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Read More: Alex Cora, christian vazquez, Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox
Bradfo Show: Alex Cora says not to worry about Rusney Castillo 01.11.16 at 1:21 pm ET
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A quick look at Rusney Castillo’s most recent foray into winter baseball might elicit a bit of panic.

Heading into Monday night’s Puerto Rican Winter League playoff game, Castillo was 1-for-16 with six strikeouts since joining Caguas for its postseason run.

But Castillo’s manager this offseason — former Red Sox infielder Alex Cora — is adamant that Red Sox followers shouldn’t worry. As he explained on the Bradfo Show podcast, there is still a belief that Castillo will be the player the Red Sox envisioned when signing him to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal.

“He’€™s been working. Right now, in the playoffs, pitchers are way ahead,” explained Cora, who also managed Castillo last offseason during the outfielder’s 10-game stint with Caguas. “But you can see the approach is there, it’€™s just a matter of getting more at-bats. But if he doesn’€™t do it here, that doesn’€™t mean he’€™s going to struggle at the big league level. I think he has a plan, he understands what he wants to do. He’€™s going to be OK this season.

“The pressure is on those guys (in the Red Sox lineup, such as David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, etc.). It can’€™t be on Rusney Castillo. I still think he’€™s going to be a guy who is going to hit for average, he’€™s going to get some home runs, he’€™s going to get some doubles, he’€™s going to steal bases. ‘€¦ .280, 15 home runs, 20 bags. That’€™s the Rusney Castillo I envision.”

Here are some other things we learned from Cora when appearing on the Bradfo Show:

CORA DOESN’T AGREE WITH THE NARRATIVE THAT HAS FOLLOWED CASTILLO

“I was kind of surprised last year when he came down, there were a lot of people up there doubting him as far as his baseball instincts. But being around him day in, day out, it was the other way around. He has a good sense of the game, who he is and what he needs to do. That’€™s a good sign

“He’€™s played for two years and all of a sudden you want him to perform at the highest level in the best league in the world, it’€™s not easy to do. But I do think he’€™s in a good place, and he will be successful, not only offensively but defensively.”

CASTILLO IS STEP AHEAD OF HIS CUBAN TEAMMATES, HECTOR OLIVERA, DIAN TOSCANA

“Comparing those two with Rusney, the kid understands the way we play the game, the American way. If he can just go to Boston again, be himself and stay inside the ball, drive the ball to right-center and hit the breaking ball off the wall.”

BRYCE BRENTZ REMINDS CORA OF DUSTIN PEDROIA

“It takes certain guys to handle that environment, and just watching him go about his business, day in and day out, talking to him about baseball, he fits the mold. Coming down here I thought he would be a free-swinger who strikes out a lot and doesn’€™t hit the ball the other way, but it’€™s the other way around.

“Talking to Dustin all these years, he has the Dustin Pedroia syndrome. He feels he can be that good. The difference between those two is Pedey is 5-foot-6 and Bryce is a big guy. I like him. Defensively, he has a strong arm, can play right field. He has a good sense what he can and can’€™t do defensively. But he puts himself in a spot where he can make plans. I don’€™t know if it’€™s going to be in spring training, halfway through the season, or in September, but he will make a difference. I feel that way about him. The way he goes about things is the most important thing, I really like him.”

CORA BELIEVES CAGUAS RELIEVER PAT LIGHT WILL HELP RED SOX SEASON THIS SEASON

“Loved him. I think he has a pretty good idea of who he is, and what he can do. He has a big arm, 96-97. His split/slider combo, it’€™s OK. It got better. ‘€¦ He would come in the middle of the game and shut people down, we did that and he was very successful. Hopefully for the Red Sox he can be a big contributor in August, at the end of the season because he can help.

“I know spring training for him is very important, but regardless of the results if they’€™re great or bad, it really doesn’€™t matter. I think this kid is going to contribute with this team in this season and be big part of if they make it to the playoffs.”

Read More: Alex Cora, bryce brentz, pat light, Red Sox
Showdown in Puerto Rico Monday night: Rusney Castillo vs. Christian Vazquez 01.04.16 at 12:35 pm ET
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Christian Vazquez

Christian Vazquez

You might want to pay attention to what transpires at Hiram Bithorn Stadium Monday night.

It is at that venue in Puerto Rico where Alex Cora‘s Caguas Puerto Rican Winter League team takes on a club managed by a another former Red Sox infielder, Ramon Vazqez, Santurce. (Vazquez and Cora were traded for one another in 2006.)

Why Red Sox followers might want to take note of the second game of the three-team, 12-game round robin postseason tournament is due to who will be in each club’s respective lineup.

Playing his first game this season for Caguas will be outfielder Rusney Castillo, who will serve as the designated hitter while hitting sixth. Also participating for Cora’s team will be Red Sox minor leaguer Bryce Brentz, who is slated to hit cleanup while manning right field.

On the other side, Sox catcher Christian Vazquez will start as Santurce’s DH.

According to El Nuevodia.com, Vazquez will only be playing through Saturday, with the catcher scheduled to continue his rehab from Tommy John surgery at the Red Sox spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla.

Vazuqez, who has only been a DH while playing in the winter league, told the media outlet he has long-tossed out to 120 feet but has yet to throw game speed to second base. (To read the entire translated article, click here.)

Read More: Alex Cora, christian vazquez, Ramon Vazquez, Red Sox
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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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,
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