How Alex Cora set tone for 2018 Red Sox with directive to Mookie Betts

Darren Hartwell
NBC Sports Boston
An upcoming documentary on Red Sox manager Alex Cora details an early decision he made that paid huge dividends.

How Alex Cora set tone for 2018 Red Sox with directive to Mookie Betts

An upcoming documentary on Red Sox manager Alex Cora details an early decision he made that paid huge dividends.

How Alex Cora set tone for 2018 Red Sox with directive to Mookie Betts originally appeared on nbcsportsboston.com

The groundwork for a World Series can be laid in early winter. Just ask the 2018 Boston Red Sox.

MLB Network is profiling Red Sox manager Alex Cora in a new documentary titled "Alex Cora: The Making of a Champion." The film, which airs Tuesday night on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET, details Cora's life journey from his childhood in Caguas, Puerto Rico, to becoming the first Puerto Rican-born manager to win a World Series.

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Cora also shares some fascinating insights about the 2018 team in an interview with Tom Verducci.

Here's one highlight: The first-year manager telling outfielder Mookie Betts on January 4 of last year he'd be batting leadoff, an unorthodox lineup spot for a player who posted 24 home runs and 102 RBI the year before.

(Click here to watch the video excerpt on MLB.com.)

"I told him, 'Mookie, I want you to be aggressive,' " Cora recalled to Verducci. " 'You're going to lead off from spring training all the way to November. You're going to stay there.' ... I want pitchers to grind from pitch one against us because of you.

" 'And by the way: We're going to play Tampa (on) Opening Day. Chris Archer is going to throw you a four-seam (fastball) right down the middle. I want you to swing at it. Swing hard. Hit it out of the ballpark.' "

That's (almost) exactly what happened nearly three months later: Archer grooved a fastball to Betts, who hit a blast to the warning track that Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier caught just shy of the fence in the deepest part of Tropicana Field.

Cora's prescient message clearly got through to Betts, whose aggressive approach helped him win American League MVP honors. And the rest of the lineup followed suit, leading all of baseball in runs scored en route to a World Series title.

That Cora had the confidence to move Betts to the leadoff spot -- which he'll relinquish in 2019 -- proves the young manager was ready for the big stage right out of the gate.

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