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Why Mookie Betts will be Alex Cora's leadoff hitter

Rob Bradford
December 08, 2017 - 8:30 am

We now have one of the first examples of how the Red Sox will look under Alex Cora.

Appearing on WEEI Thursday night, the Red Sox manager revealed that Mookie Betts is slated to be his leadoff hitter.

Betts spent half of the Red Sox' games in 2017 at the top of their lineup, manning the spot 81 times. He hit third in 40 games, fourth on 18 occasions, and even in the No. 2 hole 14 times. His numbers at No. 1 and No. 3 were almost identical, carrying an .815 OPS in both positions (although he did hit 10 more homers -- 16 -- when leading off).

When offering the thinking behind the move, Cora referenced what the Astros did with George Springer during their World Series run.

Houston, where Cora served as bench coach, carried the second-best OPS (.892) and second-most total number of runs scored (133) from the leadoff spot in the majors thanks to Springer's presence. And now the Sox manager is banking on a similar dynamic with his batting order.

"I think we can be explosive," he said. "I come from a place where we want to put pressure on the pitcher right away. You look at the athletes we have, Mookie Betts will be kind of like our George Springer. From pitch one we’re going to try and make the opposition grind and execution, and that’s not easy to do. I feel Mookie is athletic enough, he has extra-base power and he can be aggressive enough in the strike zone to put a good swing on right away and make the game 1-0, or have a man on second with no outs."

Cora later added, "You go back to the Astros, in the second half George wasn’t great. George only had 10 extra-base hits after the All-Star break, but it felt like he was getting extra-base hits. What he did was just put pressure on the opposition from pitch one, and that’s what I want our lineup to do and hopefully we can do that from the get-go."

As for who might be hitting behind Betts, Cora suggested that Andrew Benintendi will probably fit best. With Dustin Pedroia most likely out until May while recovering from knee surgery, Benintendi is viewed as the Red Sox' version of what Alex Bregman evolved into for the Astros.

"One thing I told [Pedroia] is we want him to be healthy, that’s the most important thing," Cora said. "Whenever he gets healthy he might or might not be at the top of the lineup, depending on what we have. I think Andrew Benintendi is another guy, as a left-hander he gives you that right-lefty order up there, and he can put another good swing and it can be 2-0 right away, or 1-0 with a man on second. I like that. I like to put pressure right away. I saw how that worked."