Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Alex Cora loves telling Terry Francona stories -- here are two of his favorites

John Tomase
August 19, 2018 - 1:07 pm

Alex Cora could tell Terry Francona stories all day.

Speaking to reporters before Sunday's series finale with the Rays, Cora looked ahead to his team's next opponent. The Cleveland Indians come to Fenway on Monday for a three-game set between two teams guaranteed to make the playoffs, and it wouldn't be a surprise if their paths cross again in the American League Championship Series.

That's down the road, however. On Sunday morning, Cora was more than happy to look back at the years he spent playing for Francona in Boston, including in 2007, when the team won its second World Series in four seasons.

"He trusted me. And he was very honest and genuine," Cora told reporters. "I still remember in '07, we had these meetings in spring training, they would map out how it was going to play during the season. It was Theo (Epstein), Tito and myself, and he goes, 'The first two months you're going to play a lot, until this kid gets right. He's going to try to do a lot of things out of character. He's going to swing hard and struggle a bit, but when he gets it, he gets it.'"

That player, of course, was second baseman Dustin Pedroia. After the slow start to his career that Francona predicted, Pedroia exploded to earn Rookie of the Year in 2007 and MVP in 2008.

"And we can see our careers," Cora said. "Pedey got it and I became the utility guy."

Cora told another story about outfielder J.D. Drew refusing to hit the ball the other way in 2007, so a frustrated Francona incentivized Wall-balls.

"J.D. was pull happy in '07. Very pull happy. Everything roll over, roll over, roll over," Cora said. "So Tito goes, before a game, he goes, 'J.D., every time you hit the wall, you get . . .' whatever, 'a gift,' let's put it that way. So J.D's first at-bat he goes and he hits the wall. So he goes that way and J.D. is getting a lot of gifts from Tito, boom, boom, boom.

"There was one, the corner of the wall right there and J.D. hit one, and Tito was like, 'that one hit the right side of the wall,' and J.D. was like, 'No way. It hit the wall.' They were going back and forth, back and forth during the game and he came up to the video room to see it and we're talking about J.D. making a lot of gifts, you know? They went at it, so they came up and they watched it and actually J.D. was right, the ball hit the wall."

Speaking of "gifts," Cora also recalled a game in New York against Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang when Francona promised the utility infielder's teammates a reward if he compiled four RBIs.

"Pedey was hitting .140, I was hitting .450 and I hit a home run and he goes, 'Four RBIs, you guys get a gift,'" Cora said. "I hit a homer right away. Boom, I've got two RBIs. Then I have a man at first in like the seventh and I hit a flyball to right in the old Yankee Stadium, the ball hit the wall and it was a triple so I only got one RBI and the other guy scored. When I got to the dugout, he was like, 'I was just hoping that ball didn't go out.' He was rooting against me, actually.

"But he was special. He was very special with us. Like I said, we talk about managing a little bit, the whole chasing wins thing, be careful with that, be careful with the bullpen, and this was in '06 when we weren't that good. He's a special guy. He's a special guy."