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Alex Cora: Sandy Leon made play of the year

Rob Bradford
August 08, 2018 - 6:31 pm

TORONTO -- Tucked in among a crazy night of plays during the Red Sox' win over the Blue Jays Tuesday night was one of the season's most memorable.

Sandy Leon tagged out Kendrys Morales.

The play was not only important at the time, keeping the bases loaded without the Jays adding to their lead, but was remarkably unique. How unique? One day later Red Sox manager Alex Cora designated it above every other defensive play made by his team this season.

"That’s the best play of the season. I mean, that’s the play of the year," Cora said prior to the Red Sox' game against the Jays Wednesday night.

"If you’re in that situation with the bases loaded and he’s running to the plate and you see that ball wavering by the line, would you catch it or let it go foul? That was amazing. Honestly I know Jackie will probably get the play of the year with us, but that, for me, was the play of the year. For him to go after it and have the presence of mind to catch the ball and tag him. And Jason was talking about it. He never did it. First of all, it never happens. For him to react that way, that was impressive."

The conversation about Leon lead to a reflection on how good he has been this season.

He carries the best catcher ERA in baseball (2.97), with the Red Sox going 25-1 in games Leon has started since June 21.

"His baseball IQ is way up there," Cora said. "The good thing about him is he’s willing to keep learning. You saw it yesterday on that 3-0 count, he swung. We trust him. We trust his swing in certain spots. Obviously, offensively when he’s out of the zone he struggles. When he’s within the zone, like the last few days, he can contribute. Behind the plate, I’ve been very impressed, not only with the way he calls the game but the way he blocks the ball. It seems like he blocks it and the ball is right in his hand. Throwing obviously has been really good. There’s something about him where he’s able to slow down the game. The bigger the moment, I’m not saying the easier it is for him, but he’s able to slow it down and think through the situations, call pitches and do certain things behind the plate."

What's somewhat amazing is how Leon's role has evolved, having clearly been designated the backup after Christian Vazquez signed a three-year, $13.55 million extension during spring training. In the first 11 games of the season, for instance, Leon only managed two starts.

"I just told him he needs to be patient and he understood. He was," Cora said of his communication with Leon after the Vazquez extension. "I think he started off 0-for-whatever and he wasn’t playing that much. We were just giving him Porcello. But it’s a long season and people go through slumps and injuries and you’re opportunity is going to come up. Yo have to be ready. Here’s a guy who is always ready. He’s the first one showing up, working out. Everyone talks about his offseason program this year. He lost weight. He’s been healthy. He’s been playing a lot more lately. I’m not concerned about it. I keep mentioning proud, but that’s a situation probably other guys put their head down and say, ‘Forget it. Whatever. Let me go about business and whenever they want me to catch, I’ll catch.’ But he didn’t do that. He was helping Christian. He was helping others. Raffy (Devers). Xander (Bogaerts0. All those guys. For the Latino players he’s a guy who brings widsom. He’s a quiet leader."

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