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Alex Cora already making big change in Red Sox' lineup

Rob Bradford
December 11, 2018 - 9:25 pm

LAS VEGAS -- Since putting the World Series in the rearview mirror Alex Cora has repeatedly said the Red Sox aren't going to be resting on their laurels.

Tuesday he offered perhaps the first example of the world champs turning the page.

Meeting with the media at the MLB winter meetings Cora announced Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi would be flip-flopping spots in the lineup. Considering the attention the Sox' manager received when announcing Betts as the leadoff hitter a year before, along with debate that continued throughout the 2018 season, the move elicited plenty of attention.

It's not every day a team adjusts the existence of the reigning American League MVP.

"We've been thinking about it," Cora said. "I think we're going to maximize Mookie in a different spot. Flip-flop them, Beni leading off and Mookie hitting second. Talked to him, it makes sense. You guys saw what happened towards the end of the season, he became very passive again.

And it's not that I don't like that, I know what type of hitter he is. But I think doing that, Beni can be aggressive, too, and he can -- he's a good runner. He gets on base, and I put it this way to Mookie. And I know Beni's OK with it. But if you play 162 games, you're going to come up 162 at-bats with nobody on. And last year, what I wanted from him in the leadoff spot we accomplished. It's a different season and we have to make adjustments, and that's where we're going to go."

No player in baseball had a better OPS (1.083) or batting average (.346) hitting out of the leadoff hitter than Betts. And no team scored more runs out of the lineup's top spot than the Red Sox.

But there was always the question if Betts' spot was wasting his ability to produce runs, with 23 of his 32 home runs coming with nobody on base.

"Been going on for a month and a half, between plane rides and parades and eating and all that," Cora said when asked about the timing of the decision. "But I think we can't expect that is going to be the same thing next year. We have to make adjustments and talking to (director of analytics) Zach (Scott) and everybody knows how people think, feel about the second hitter of the lineup. So we're going to maximize that. It's not that we did it wrong last year. It worked for us. But it's a new season. And we have to turn the page, and I think that's a good way to do it."

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