Alex Cora: Red Sox hitters not thrilled with idea of facing off with pitching position players

Rob Bradford
July 23, 2019 - 8:14 pm

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Consider it a sign of the times, albeit one the Red Sox are sick of seeing.

For the second time in a matter of days, the Sox' hitters were forced to face off with a position player on the mound, with Tampa Bay's Mike Brosseau doing the honors this time in the ninth inning of Monday night's game at Tropicana Field.

Brosseau would throw 19 pitches, with a fastball that averaged 68 mph and maxed out at 75 mph. He gave up one run on three hits, extending the Red Sox' lead at the time to six runs. As it turned out, the somewhat unorthodox maneuver by Kevin Cash didn't go over all that well in the visitors' clubhouse.

"They don’t like it. Yeah. They don’t like it," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora when asked prior to Tuesday's game about how his players felt about the move to bring a position player to pitch. "You still have to bear down and try to do your best. You kind of like, have to change your swing sometimes. Less is more, actually. I know it’s uncomfortable. Like I told you guys the other day, Jackie (Bradley Jr.) hits two home runs but the last one, he hits a groundball to the pitcher and he goes home thinking about the groundball to the pitcher. (Andrew Benintendi) Benny strikes out and he’s like, wow, It’s not easy. I know it’s not easy."

What is becoming evident is teams increased willingness to turn to position players in order to save bullets in the bullpen. For instance, Brosseau became the 38th position player to pitch this season, a stark contrast to the nine that were called upon throughout the entire 2009 season.

So why has become such an accepted practice?

"Bullpen usage," Cora said when asked the question. "I think that’s what comes into play. It gets to the point they're using a lot of guys. At the same time, I always said, Tito told me in ‘06 when I was a player, ‘when you manage, be careful not to chase wins. Some games although you feel you can come back, it’s going to be hard to come back. If you try to use your bullpen for a win or whatever, you’re going to be chasing your tail for a week.’ That’s what comes into play. In an era where everyone is using their bullpen a lot, that happens."

The difference in this case, however, was the score differential, a piece of the puzzle that contributed to the Red Sox' analysis.

"I don’t know man. It’s a tough one," Cora said. "Because it happened to us twice in different circumstances. Five-run game. They had a reason to do it. It’s one that puts you in a tough spot too because while they’re saving their pitching, we have to finish the game with our pitching. I don’t know. They had their reasons. Like I always said, I manage my team. They decided they wanted to save their bullpen and they did. It’s just one of those it’s weird because of the scorer and the way the team swung the bat and the ball is jumping, they scored runs, but they have their reasons."