BOSTON — “It’s sad he won’t be our manager,” said an emotionally distraught Xander Bogaerts, one of several strong remarks he made during 13-minute session with the media at Fenway Park last Thursday.
The topic de jour was the news concerning Alex Cora’s departure – a stunning development that left Bogaerts in a state of total shock. Bogaerts felt something was up when a Red Sox teammate posted a sad emoji on his personal Twitter account. Then came the bombshell that was dropped on Tuesday night and the ensuing fallout that has made the remaining time before spring training anything but ordinary.
“Obviously it’s very unfortunate. Alex is someone we enjoyed playing for. I was blessed to have a lot of conversations with him baseball-wise. He’s definitely someone we’ll miss a lot,” said Bogaerts, who made sure to give credit where credit is due with regards to Cora pushing the right buttons with the shortstop.
“I think he helped me get to the other level that I was trying to reach. He’s such a smart baseball guy and helped me get better,” said Bogaerts, who saw his home run and RBI totals shift significantly upward after Cora took over for previous BoSox manager John Farrell after the 2017 season. “He would give you tips on what he saw you doing differently whether you were going good or bad. The way he communicated with us as players was nice … it made everyone feel loved. He kept everyone on the same page.”
Asked what he’ll miss the most about no longer interacting with Cora on a daily basis, Bogaerts replied, “Just seeing his face. After the security guys, he was the first person I saw once you got into the clubhouse.”
Now entering his eighth season with the Sox, Bogaerts admitted these are definitely strange times for the only organization he’s ever known. The manager who helped guide the Red Sox to the 2018 World Series title is no longer in the picture and his replacement is somewhere out there.
“Obviously stuff happens in life, but this was very unexpected. It’s hard,” he said. “Knowing the team we had and how everything was special … he will be dearly missed for sure.”
In the eyes of Bogaerts, what the Red Sox accomplished two short years ago should be perceived as tainted as the team awaits discipline from Major League Baseball in the face of serious accusations that Cora had a video replay system that helped steal signs from the opposition.
“Absolutely not. We came to the park every day and practiced and played hard. We had each other’s back,” said Bogaerts. “We had a great run.”
Cora’s successor will be walking into a unique situation, one that goes well beyond managing in a baseball-crazed city.
“Whoever is the new manager, he’s got to build relationships. We’ll see what Chaim (Bloom, Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer) and those guys have planned. It’s a hard decision for them,” said Bogaerts.
That said, Bogaerts has a suggestion on who he would like to see manage the Sox.
“Someone like (Cora),” he said.
Thursday saw the Red Sox announce personal moves in the Player Development Department as well as solidify the field staffs for their minor-league affiliates heading into the 2020 season.
In the case of the Pawtucket Red Sox, there’s one new addition to the four-person on-field coaching staff. Replacing Kevin Walker as pitching coach will be Paul Abbott, who previously served in the same capacity for Double-A Portland (2018-19), High-A Salem (2015-17), Single-A Greenville (2013-14), and Short-A Lowell (2011-12). Abbott pitched 11 seasons in the majors with five of them coming with Seattle.
Under Abbott’s watch, Portland pitchers shaved a significant amount off the collective ERA, going from 4.45 in 2018 down to 3.80 last season. Appearing in 27 games (24 starts) and posting a 3.52 for the 2019 Pawtucket club, Kyle Hart has a previous working relationship with Abbott that should pave the way for a smooth adjustment as Abbott transitions to Triple-A and the International League.
“I first meet Paul a few years ago in spring training and worked with him in Salem and then quite extensively in Portland. I have a good relationship with him,” said Hart, who was at Fenway Park as part of the parent club’s Rookie Development Program. “I’m very happy for him. That’s a big-time step … one step closer to the next level. It’s exciting for him, but at the same time it’s also good for us in terms of the guys who will be in Triple-A. Having that comfort zone of working with a guy you know and knows what work needs to be put in on our end in order to become a major leaguer.”
Leading the way in the almost-status quo initiative is Billy McMillon who is returning for his second season as Pawtucket’s manager and his 13th campaign as a member of the Red Sox organization. Rejoining McMillon with the PawSox is Bruce Crabbe, who is back for his seventh season as Pawtucket’s coach and 16th with the Red Sox organization. Rich Gedman enters his sixth year as the PawSox hitting coach and his 10th with Red Sox minor-league clubs.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03