Red Sox manager Alex Cora smiled before issuing a warning for reporters ahead of batting practice at Fenway Park Saturday afternoon.
“You’re going to see Mookie taking ground balls at second,” Cora said. “But he’s doing that the whole season, so do not overreact. That’s part of his preparation.”
Sure enough, less than an hour later, Boston’s prized right fielder Mookie Betts was stationed in between first and second, fielding ground balls. As Cora noted, the drill is part of Betts’s normal routine, but there was some heightened attention surrounding his reps Saturday, just a few days before the start of the World Series.
Could Betts — a two-time Gold Glover who’s made countless sensational grabs in right field — really start at second base for the team’s most important series of the season? Cora left the door open Saturday, telling reporters the decision will come down to matchups — the Red Sox could face either the Milwaukee Brewers or the Los Angeles Dodgers — as well as a number of other factors.
“There’s always a chance, I guess,” Cora said. “Those are the cool conversations that come with where we’re at. I don’t mind that. We’ll talk about that today.”
Betts, who last played second base in a regular-season game against the Yankees on Aug. 3, said Saturday that he isn’t necessarily opposed to the idea, either.
“AC hasn’t steered us wrong,” Betts said. “There’s no reason for me to not trust him. If he believes in me, then I have to believe in myself. That’s what it takes to win.”
As for how he’ll fare at second?
First baseman Steve Pearce said he anticipates no problems if the change is made, given Betts’s All-Star athleticism. But Cora was hedged in his assessment.
“[Mookie] feels that he’s great at second,” Cora said. “I don’t know. I never saw it. If you ask him, he’ll say, ‘I’m great.’ If you ask [Dustin] Pedroia, then he’ll say, ‘He sucked.’ I don’t know. There’s a lot that goes into it.”
Either way, a decision is looming for the Red Sox, who will have to finagle their lineup without a designated hitter for at least two — if not three — games in National League ballparks. With J.D. Martinez as their usual DH, the Red Sox will surely want to find a way to incorporate him elsewhere.
“One thing’s for sure: J.D. will play,” Cora said. “That’s clear.”