Alex Cora

Alex Cora interviewing for Padres manager's job

Former major leaguer and current ESPN analyst Alex Cora is interviewing for the San Diego Padres manager's position, CBS MLB Insider Jon Heyman reports.

Cora, who turns 40 in a few days, played in the majors as an infielder from 1998 to 2011 with six teams, most notably with the Dodgers and Red Sox -- with whom he helped win a World Series in 2007. He has worked in TV as an MLB analyst since 2013, but has no professional coaching experience. Similar so-called gaps in experience have not stopped others from getting MLB jobs as managers.

It's also been reported that Cora, the younger brother of former major leaguer and White Sox bench coach Joey Cora, is a candidate for openings with the Nationals and Marlins. Despite a lack of coaching experience, Cora was respected as a player, and seen at the time as a possible future manager. He's also from Puerto Rico and speaks Spanish. With the firing of Lloyd McClendon from the Mariners, the only ethnic minority who also manages in MLB is Fredi Gonzalez of the Braves.

Heyman says Cora is seen these days by the industry as "a very good" managerial prospect.

The Padres dismissed interim manager Pat Murphy after the 2015 season, when the Padres went finished a disappointing 74-88 following an offseason makeover by new general manager A.J. Preller. Murphy had taken over in June for Bud Black, who had managed the club for eight-plus seasons.

Other candidates for the Padres job who reportedly have or will interview include former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and Pirates coach Rick Sofield. Gardenhire also is seen as a candidate for the Nationals job, recently vacated by the firing of Matt Williams.

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Alex Cora on Castillo: 'He's not a prima donna'

Alex Cora, who played 14 seasons in the big leagues, including four with the Red Sox, on Wednesday gave a strong endorsement to Rusney Castillo, the Cuban outfielder who is playing for Cora in Puerto Rico as he prepares for his first spring training with the Red Sox.

“I think he’s going to be an everyday player next season, no doubt about it," Cora said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “He’s going to play, and play well."

Cora’s impressions extend beyond Castillo’s skill set.

“When you have a high-profile import, usually they show up, they play, they leave," Cora said. “They don’t mingle, they could care less about teammates. With Rusney, it’s the total opposite. He’s been like an independent league pitcher who really cares about winning. He pays attention to the game, he wants to win. He’s doing everything possible to help us win games."

Cora, whose playing career ended when he was released by the Cardinals in spring training 2012, is in his first season of managing Caguas, his hometown team in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, the winter league on the island. He also has served as GM for the past three seasons, and after Castillo signed with the Red Sox in August, Cora texted Sox GM Ben Cherington, offering Caguas as a place where Castillo could get some playing time. Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, like Castillo a native of Cuba, had come to Puerto Rico in 2012 and played for Mayaguez in preparation for his first season, so Cora expected Cherington would be looking to place Castillo as well.

When Castillo injured his thumb while playing in the Arizona Fall League, Cora thought the Red Sox might elect to shut down the center fielder, and told Cherington he would understand if they did. But satisfied that the thumb had healed, Cherington opted to have Castillo go to Puerto Rico, where he has been for nearly three weeks. In his first seven games, Castillo is batting .320 (8-for-25) with a home run, stolen base and a walk. Cora has had him batting leadoff and playing center field.

“Defensively, he's been very impressive in center field," Cora said. “His instincts are great, the jumps he gets. He’s very light on his feet. Luis Matos, who played center field for Baltimore, is my hitting coach and outfield instructor, and he’s very impressed. Luis was a good outfielder.

“Offensively, he's still learning, still working on a few things. It's tough to come here midway through it. The range of stuff he’s facing goes from north to south. There are guys throwing 95 and guys throwing 82 with sinkers and sliders. But he adjusts. I really like [that] he hasn't tried to pull the ball. The only ball he tried to pull was a breaking ball that he hit for a home run to left-center. He’s been strong to the right-center gap. Of his eight hits, six have been up the middle. That’s the sign of a good hitter not trying to do too much.

“He’ll rub a few people the wrong way when he’s running from home to first. It looks like he’s not running fast. He doesn't get out of the box clean; his finish doesn't let him do that, so a lot of people may think he’s dogging to first. But first to third, second to the plate, whoa, this kid can run."

The Red Sox signed Castillo to a six-year, $72 million contract last August, so they have a pretty good feel for his on-field tools. Their knowledge of him otherwise is by necessity limited, given the prohibition on major league scouts working in Cuba. They should be heartened to hear of the positive impression Castillo has made on Cora, who also works for ESPN’s "Baseball Tonight" as an analyst, in how he approaches his job and his teammates, and how he conducts himself off the field.

“He’s more advanced than what people think," Cora said, "not only on the field but off the field. He’s a very organized kid, a family kid. He understands the whole process. Most of the time when you bring in somebody like him, he needs a driver, he needs someone who will follow him around. He needs an entourage with him.

“It’s the other way around with him. When we get imports, we put them at first in a hotel near the ballpark until they learn to drive around here. After that they usually rent a place in San Juan, about a half hour from here. Rusney, the first thing he wanted to know was, how do I get here, how do I get there, without needing anybody. He learned in two days how to get from his apartment to the ballpark, his apartment to other stadiums. He is here in an apartment with his wife.

“He’s not a prima donna. He’s just like the other guys. He shows up on time, he works out, and off the field I’m very impressed with the way he acts and who he is," said Cora.

Cora does not know Puig personally, but is well aware of the polarizing opinions that Puig has inspired in his short time with the Dodgers, some dazzled by his skills but turned off by the way he handles himself. One of Cora’s coaches, Miguel Negron, was still playing for Mayaguez when Puig joined the team.

“Miguel told us the other day that they are total opposites," Cora said. “Yasiel came down here, Miguel said he was tough, he didn't know how to act, it was all about him. This kid [Castillo] shows up and plays. That’s it."

Cora, whose Criollos de Caguas are in first place with a 20-10 record, gave his players credit for being so accepting when Castillo first arrived. But he was just as impressed by Castillo’s response.

“He clicked with the guys," Cora said. “Yeah, they're a great group of guys, but he’s not just another import. He’s a guy making $72 million. They opened their arms, but he was willing to jell with them. That’s the sign of a good guy and a good teammate."

Cora says that when he looks down the dugout bench, he sees Castillo either talking to a younger teammate or asking questions of a veteran.

"Besides the physical tools, he gets it," Cora said. “He gets baseball. It’s his passion. It’s what he lives. [Sox fans] will love him. It’s 24 hours, 7 days a week, nonstop baseball for him. He’ll be OK there."

The benefit of playing winter ball for someone like Castillo goes beyond gaining repetitions at the plate and in the field. It’s also about learning to function in a structured environment, developing a routine, learning all the little things that go into being a big-leaguer, including interacting with clubhouse attendants. Caguas is the continuation of a process that began for Castillo in the Gulf Coast Rookie League with Lazaro Gutierrez, the Sox player development coordinator who played with Cora on a 1996 University of Miami team that made it to the finals of the College World Series.

“He’s learned how to tip," Cora said with a laugh. “There are a lot of happy people around here."

The one area where Castillo still needs to play catch-up is in his mastery of English. His use of the language is still very limited.

“He needs to get better and he knows it," Cora said. “The way it looks, [Dustin] Pedroia needs to learn Spanish."

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Alex Cora no longer candidate for Rangers manager job

Torey Lovullo and Alex Cora, two of the eight individuals who interviewed for the Rangers' vacant manager position, have confirmed that they are no longer candidates, per Evan Grant.

Mike Maddux and Steve Buechele, who also interviewed for the position, are also expected not to make the final cut.

That leaves four possible choices -- Tim Bogar, Jeff Banister, Kevin Cash, and Joe McEwing.

Evan says in the blog post linked above that Banister "appears to be gaining momentum," with the Rangers talking to people around the league about Banister over the past week.

My guess is that Bogar, Banister and Cash end up being the finalists, with Bogar ultimately named the manager, though that is just a guess.

Bogar, of course, was the Rangers' bench coach in 2014 until Ron Washington resigned, at which point he took over as interim manager for the final few weeks of the season.  The Rangers played well under his watch, and he's generally been considered the favorite.

Banister is the bench coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he has worked under manager Clint Hurdle, the Rangers' former hitting coach, and someone who has ties to Jon Daniels and Thad Levine dating back to JD and Levine's days in Colorado.

Cash was a journeyman catcher who spent a lot of time in both the majors and minors, including spending the 2011 season with the Round Rock Express, before becoming Terry Francona's bullpen coach in Cleveland in 2014.

McEwing is the third base coach for the Chicago White Sox.

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Rangers interview Alex Cora

The Texas Rangers appeared to conclude their first round of interviews for the vacant managerial position when they spoke with interim manager Tim Bogar and Alex Cora, the Caguas Criollos general manager/manager and ESPN analyst, on Friday.

In all, the Rangers interviewed eight potential candidates to replace Ron Washington, who resigned on Sept. 5.

Bogar took over for Washington and finished 14-8. Bogar was hired last offseason to become the Rangers' bench coach and seems to be the front-runner to be the next manager.

Cora was a finalist for the Seattle Mariners job in 2013. He was a third base coach/bench coach with the Chicago White Sox and Florida Marlins from 2004 to 2012. Cora, who played 14 seasons for four big league teams, has managed in minor leagues systems for the then Montreal Expos and the New York Mets. He also managed a winter ball team in Venezuela.

Whether he gets a second interview is uncertain. Rangers officials had no comment regarding the candidates.

Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux, Triple-A manager Steve Buechele, Boston bench coach Torey Lovullo, Pittsburgh bench coach Jeff Banister, Chicago White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing and Cleveland bullpen coach Kevin Cash have also interviewed.

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Alex Cora thriving in role as winter league GM

CAGUAS, Puerto Rico - Thirty minutes before first pitch at Estadio Yldefonso Sola Morales, Alex Cora is working the rail at the home dugout on the third base side like it's a receiving line at a wedding reception. He stops and greets every player on Los Criollos de Caguas, shaking hands, slapping palms and offering encouragement. If not for the fact that he's in a short-sleeved plaid shirt with a backpack slung over his shoulder, you'd think the smiling 38-year-old was one of the players.

Two years after retiring following a 13-year major league career, and after spending the 2011 season as a reserve infielder with the Nationals, Cora has found another calling. In the twilight of his playing days, managers like Terry Francona and Jim Riggleman said Cora had the innate diamond smarts to make a good coach, perhaps even a major league skipper. But the ink had hardly dried on his retirement papers before Cora - who also acts as an in-studio analyst for ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" - accepted a job as the general manager of the Criollos in his hometown in Puerto Rico's central mountains, 30 miles south of San Juan.

The Criollos' former general manager was moving to a role with Liga de Beisbol Professional Roberto Clemente - the official name for Puerto Rico's winter baseball league - and team president Raul Rodriguez offered Cora the opportunity to move into the front office as the team's GM. Cora jumped at the chance and steered the Criollos to the league title as a rookie general manager. Now he's got his sights set on back-to-back crowns, something Caguas hasn't done in its storied 75-year history.

"It's not the normal path, I know. ... But I know a lot about the team. I have the pulse about that clubhouse, probably better than anybody," Cora says while sitting in the Plexiglass-enclosed team officials' box on the stadium's second level as a game against los Gigantes de Carolina gets under way. "For me, it was an easy transition and they made it a lot easier, the players, because they understand friendship is friendship and business is business. They respect me in that sense. You've seen me around - I'm hands-on because I enjoy it. I still feel it."


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Alex Cora Joins ESPN as MLB Analyst in Multiplatform Role

Here's a release from ESPN announcing that former Boston Red Sox IF Alex Cora will be joining ESPN:

Former Major League Baseball player Alex Cora has joined ESPN and ESPN Deportes as an MLB analyst. Cora will provide insights and analysis for various platforms across both networks, including Baseball Tonight, Beisbol Esta Noche, SportsCenter and other studio programming. He will also contribute to ESPN Radio and ESPN Deportes Radio. 

“Television will be an exciting new challenge for me,” said Cora. “I look forward to joining ESPN’s deep bench of analysts to share my insights, experience and passion for baseball with fans and viewers on Baseball Tonight, Beisbol Esta Noche and across ESPN’s various platforms.”

Added Mike McQuade, vice president, production, “Alex is a tremendous acquisition for us. He is well-regarded across baseball as an astute student of the game and prospective manager. His unique combination of major league experience, thoughtful analysis and polished communication skills in two languages will strengthen our baseball coverage across several ESPN platforms.”

Cora, a Puerto Rican native, was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1993 First-Year Player Draft but opted to play for the University of Miami, where he reached the College World Series three times. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1996 and made his major league debut on June 7, 1998.

After seven years with the club, Cora signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Indians in 2005. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox midway through the
season. He stayed with Boston for three seasons and won a World Series with the club in 2007. Throughout his 14-year career, he also spent time with the New York Mets, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals. Cora was a solid defensive player (career .976 fielding percentage) and a versatile infielder with strong knowledge of the game and leadership skills.

Most recently, Cora lead Puerto Rico’s Caguas Criollos to the 2013 Caribbean Series in his first year as general manager of the club. Cora previously played for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic – both in 2006 and 2009.

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