Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Cora on OMF explains how he plans to use surprise roster addition Drew Pomeranz in World Series

Alex Reimer
October 23, 2018 - 3:34 pm

Red Sox manager Alex Cora surprised most people when he decided to place struggling left-hander Drew Pomeranz on the World Series roster instead of Brandon Workman, But per usual, there’s lots of logic behind Cora’s decision. 

In his weekly interview with OMF Tuesday, Cora said Pomeranz’ velocity is back in the mid-90s after it dipped for the majority of the season. With that in mind, Cora says he’s confident Pomeranz can retire some of the Dodgers’ left-handed hitters in key spots, such as Joc Peterson and Cody Bellinger –– much like little-used lefty Francisco Liriano retired Bellinger for Houston in Games 6 and 7 of the World Series last year. Cora also pointed out the reverse splits that some of Los Angeles’ right-handed hitters are sporting, such as Yaisel Puig. 

It’s apparent Pomeranz won’t be a featured pitcher on the staff, but he’ll likely have the opportunity to make an impact.

“This is a team that mixes and matches a lot,” Cora said. “They pinch-hit in the second inning, fourth inning. We saw it against Milwaukee. They’ve got Pederson, Bellinger, (Yasmani) Grandal isn’t that good from the right side, Puig is a reverse split guy. I’m not saying we’re going to use (Pomeranz) in high-leverage situations, because with us, it’s pretty straightforward. If you give us 5, 5.2 innings, we’re going to (Ryan) Brasier, we’re going to (Matt) Barnes, we’re going to the available starter, and then we’re going to (Craig) Kimbrel. But in the National League game, last year we lived it with (Francisco Liriano). He didn’t pitch in the first five games of the World Series, then all of a sudden we had to use him in Game 6. He got Bellinger out, and then we used him in Game 7, and he got Bellinger out again. We’re not talking about 12 outs, 15 outs, but I do feel there’s going to be a hitter where Drew comes in, whether it’s one of these reverse split guys from the right side or one of those lefties, and he’s going to throw that breaking ball and fastball up and he’s going to get him out.”

Since the Astros ousted the Dodgers in a hard-fought seven-game World Series last year, Cora is familiar with Dave Roberts’ mix-and-match. For example, Los Angeles deployed four different leadoff hitters in four straight games in the NLCS against Milwaukee. But overall, Cora says he can’t worry about what’s going on in the other dugout.

“I hate managing the opposition,” he explained. “That’s not my job, my job is to manage this team. We rely on starters. (Chris) Sale, (David) Price, (Nathan) Eovaldi, (Rick) Porcello. We need them to go five, six innings –– hopefully seven. It really doesn’t matter what they do with the mixing-and-matching, as long as our horses give us enough innings, and if we have the lead in the sixth inning, we’re going to be in good shape.”

The Red Sox’ dangerous reputation on the base paths greatly impacted the ALCS, where Houston catcher Martin Maldonado struggled with passed balls and controlling his pitching staff. While Cora didn’t give away any hints about his team’s strategy against the Dodgers, it’s apparent they’re going to be aggressive once more.

“Just the thought that we were going to run, it messed (Maldonado) up,” Cora said. “He struggled. And I love (Maldonado), he’s one of my best friends. He’s probably the best defensive catcher in the big leagues. But he struggled with the signs, first of all. They were so into the, ‘We’re stealing signs and sending people to check us out. We actually used it to our advantage. I mentioned it to you guys. Paranoia, we almost started doing jumping jacks at second base. It was that bad. The sign sequences were long, and probably very complicated, and he messed them up. He had a tough series. We didn’t run as much, but the thought that we were going to run, that’s why they traded for him. They were ready for it, and I think we did a good job in terms of getting leads and putting pressure on them. It worked for us.”

As far as Game 1 is concerned, all of those talking points are moot if Chris Sale isn’t sharper than he was in his outing against the Astros. Cora says he has faith in his left-handed ace, as long as he features a potent changeup.

“The slider was the pitch that was missing against the Astros,” Cora said. “I’m good with the velocity, especially in these conditions. He showed 94, 95 at the end of that start, but it was more about the slider. He didn’t have command of it, the changeup wasn’t good. He only had one pitch in that start, it was a fastball glove-side, inside. He grinded through four innings, or whatever it was. The slider is the most important pitch. Even if he’s throwing 99, if he doesn’t have the slider, it’s tough for him, because they’re fouling off pitches and the pitch count gets up there. But that’s the one thing I’ll be paying attention to.”