TORONTO — The Red Sox got a jolt of energy, and what they hope will be a boost of momentum, several hours before the first pitch of Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays when Alex Cora appeared for the first time during their 10-game road trip.
It’s hard to know how much cause and effect there was between Cora’s absence and the Red Sox losing five of those six games, but the players in the clubhouse knew for sure getting their manager back could only be a positive.
“We know he’s the manager. A lot of guys have respect for him,” said Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. “He helps a lot of guys in-game and before the game. He’s always looking for stuff that can help us out. He’s always on point, always aware and always ready to go.”
Cora, who was stuck in his Boston-area home by himself the last few days, tried to make the best of the situation.
“Testing every day in the morning and then watching the game,” said Cora. “It was a different routine every day trying to get W’s from afar, but it’s one of those, that it is what it is. I think actually understanding why [I wasn’t there], it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
“Obviously, the results didn’t work out from our end, but I think I did pretty good. A lot of ice cream during the game. A lot of Uber Eats. It was refreshing and eye opening. The fact that I didn’t lose my appetite, it was cool.”
The time missed only enhanced Cora’s appetite to resume doing what he loves.
“It’s good,” said Cora. “This is what we do. This is what I’m here for and, obviously, understanding the situation … it was the right reason not to hop on that plane and not to be in Tampa and here in Toronto the first few days. But to be back, it’s great.”
It was hectic for Cora to learn he had tested positive so close to game-time in Boston last week. He had already done his pregame session with the media leading up to the scheduled 1:35 p.m. ET game, only to learn he had COVID.
“Just to be clear, I talked to you guys, and then after that, I went to the office like around noon, 12:15 [p.m. ET], right around that time,” said Cora. “I didn’t feel great.”
Then he gave himself a test, which came back positive. And he had trainer Brad Pearson get him another one just to be sure. Again, it was positive.
Cora experienced just mild symptoms, but he needed to test negative twice before he was cleared for return.
He said watching the game from the couch wasn’t that difficult. In fact, it was less stressful.
“It’s easier, actually, from the couch,” said Cora. “I never take this game for granted, but the decisions, everything that goes on from where I was watching the game, the game is a lot easier. This thing is real. The dugout is real. Everything that goes on in the field is real. And, you know, if anything, it’s a good reminder that it’s not an easy game.”
Bench coach Will Venable and his staff did their best to hold down the fort in Cora’s absence, which happened at a time the Sox were slumping offensively.
“We’re not winning games, but I don’t think we’re that far off,” Cora said. “I do believe, offensively, we’re closer than what people think. We’ve been hitting the ball hard lately, which is important. I think we’ve been doing a better job swinging at strikes, although still, we’re chasing pitches. But, you know, a pitch here, a pitch there, a play here, a play there … it changes the whole complexion on this road trip, but this is where we’re at.”
With Cora back at the helm, the Red Sox will try to get back on a winning track.
“We missed him,” said catcher Christian Vázquez. “It’s fun to have him. It feels good when he’s around. He brings something special to the team. That energy that he brings to the table, it’s different than anything else. He’s a special human being. It’s different. You play relaxed in his hands. He’s very special.”