Cora: MVP favorite Betts could play 2B in World Series
BOSTON (AP) — With a championship at stake, AL MVP favorite Mookie Betts is ready to do anything manager Alex Cora asks.
Even if that means dusting off his infielder’s mitt.
Cora said Saturday he might use the Gold Glove right fielder at second base during the World Series, a move that would make space in the lineup for slugger J.D. Martinez when the series shifts to Dodger Stadium.
Martinez has two homers and nine RBIs as Boston’s designated hitter this postseason, and when Boston loses the DH under National League rules in Los Angeles, Cora has to find a spot for him on the field. His best position is right field, but that’s also where Betts has played while winning two straight Gold Gloves.
So Betts may be moving to the dirt.
“A.C. has never steered us wrong,” Betts said. “Naturally, if he trusts me then I should believe in myself. That’s what it takes to win. I’ll do whatever.”
Boston learned its World Series opponent Saturday night when the Dodgers beat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-1 in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series. That will influence how Cora stacks his lineup for Games 3 and 4, and a potential Game 5. Betts at second base is a possibility, but not a certainty.
“I don’t know, man,” Cora said. “He already played second during the regular season. So, there’s always a chance, I guess.”
Betts was a second baseman throughout his minor league career and played 14 games there as a rookie in 2014, relieving an injured Dustin Pedroia. Betts also played second for six innings against the Yankees on Aug. 3 after Ian Kinsler got hurt.
Betts takes grounders before games during the regular season and was at the keystone for some work Saturday when Boston practiced at Fenway Park.
“He’ll take ground balls as always. That’s not going to change,” Cora said. “But obviously we’ll see who we play and matchups.”
Among the advantages to moving Betts to second: it could help keep ALCS MVP Jackie Bradley Jr. in the lineup. Kinsler and Brock Holt would likely go to the bench with Betts at second.
“We’ve got some pretty good second basemen, we’ve got some pretty good outfielders,” Cora said. “We’re in the World Series. That conversation was going to come up. One thing for sure, J.D. will play. That’s clear. We’ll see which alignment is better, which lineup is better and we’ll make decisions accordingly.”
Betts drew positive reviews as an infielder in the minors, but he’s only played 128 innings there as a major leaguer. Cora has never seen him play the position in person — he was ejected from the Aug. 3 game against the Yankees before Betts replaced Kinsler.
“I was just joking with him that there’s a reason he’s the right fielder,” Cora said. “He feels he’s good at second. I don’t know. I never saw it. If you asked him he’ll say, ‘I’m great.’”
Chris Sale has resumed throwing and says he’s ready to pitch Game 1 of the World Series after missing an ALCS start and being hospitalized with an illness. Sale threw a bullpen Saturday and said he will go through his normal routine before taking the mound at Fenway Park for Tuesday night’s opener.
First, though, the ace left-hander had some fun with reporters when asked about the ailment, saying it was caused by irritation from a belly-button ring.
Although Sale remained deadpan during the comment, he has not been observed with a pierced navel.
Sale was initially slated to pitch Game 5 of the ALCS but was ruled out after the illness left him weak.
Sale called it a dream to get the ball for the World Series opener.
“We’re going to grind like hell and give it everything we’ve got,” he said.
NO MORE TIPPING
Cora thinks he has good reason for renewed confidence in Craig Kimbrel: the All-Star closer is no longer tipping his pitches.
Cora suspects both the Yankees and Astros picked up on something in Kimbrel’s routine that was revealing which pitch was coming during the playoffs.
Kimbrel has a save in each of his five appearances this postseason, but he allowed runs in each of his first four outings as he struggled to control his fastball, surrendering six hits and five walks.
Kimbrel was on the mound at the end of Game 4 of the ALCS when left fielder Andrew Benintendi came up with a diving catch with the bases loaded for the final out to help the Red Sox escape with an 8-6 victory over the Astros.
Cora later got a text from Eric Gagne, a good friend and Cora’s teammate when both played for the Red Sox in 2007, alerting him of Kimbrel’s possible tipping.
“Too bad that it took so long. But it was figured out,” Cora said. “I’ve got a lot of friends around the league.”