Red Sox manager Alex Cora discusses relationship with Dustin Pedroia

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Dustin Pedroia
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Dustin Pedroia /

New Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora commented on his connection to former teammate Dustin Pedroia during his introductory press conference.

When Dustin Pedroia made his brief MLB debut with the Boston Red Sox there were many who questioned if he belonged at this level. He hit a mere .191 with a .561 OPS in 31 games that season. At age 22, Pedroia was unprepared and overwhelmed by his first taste of the big leagues.

One teammate who continued to believe in him was Alex Cora.

The Red Sox introduced Cora was the 47th manager in franchise history on Monday, but back in 2006, he was a utility player for Boston. He witnessed Pedroia’s struggles first-hand, which put him in a difficult position. Cora was the veteran with a solid track record that had fans clamoring for him to receive more playing time. Pedroia was an unheralded rookie who was clearly over his head.

The Red Sox never gave up on Pedroia and neither did Cora, who continued to support the rookie, perhaps at his own expense. Their patience paid off the following year, as Pedroia broke out in his first full season to capture the Rookie of the Year Award. He followed that up with an MVP campaign in his second full season. Cora was beside him as Pedroia developed into a star and they won a World Series together in 2007.

It was from that experience that the two developed a bond that lives on to this day. When asked by reporters during Monday’s introductory press conference if he’s been in touch with any of the players on the roster, Cora opened up about his connection to Pedroia.

"“I want to make this clear. The relationship with me and Dustin Pedroia is going to be forever,” Cora told reporters, per WEEI’s John Tomase. “Kelli Pedroia with my kids, that relationship is always going to be there. I love that kid, I love his family, they’ve been amazing for us, and that’s not going to change. As a player, I think Pedey always looked up to me as a mentor, as a teacher. That’s not going to change. He understands that back in the day when he was hitting .120 and everyone wanted me to play every day, and he was not the Laser Show, I was the one supporting him. Me and Mike Lowell, we were helping him out. Nothing is going to change.”"

Pedroia has yet to make any public comments regarding the hiring of Cora, but every indication that we’ve heard so far suggests he’s in favor of the decision. He’s not the type to gush over a former mentor but that doesn’t mean Pedroia doesn’t hold a tremendous amount of respect for Cora.

While the former teammates clearly have a close relationship that dates back to Pedroia’s early playing days, Cora doesn’t see that bond as an obstacle.

"“He understands that I’m the manager and he’s a player,” Cora said. “I’m looking forward to managing him. With the attitude he brings, with the passion he has for the game, all he can do is help. We need him healthy, that’s the most important thing, but when Dustin Pedrioa’s healthy, he can help any team. I’m happy he’s on my team.”"

Pedroia won’t be healthy to begin the season after undergoing knee surgery last month. He’s expected to miss at least the first two months of next season, leaving it up to Cora to find a way to replace him in the meantime.

The decision could be made for him by president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, depending on what moves the front office makes this winter. Re-signing Eduardo Nunez would be an ideal solution, but he won’t come cheap and his undetermined role once Pedroia returns could lead him to sign elsewhere. Unless Dombrowski seeks an outside candidate to man second base during those early months, Cora could be left juggling between the few underwhelming options on the roster.

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Pedroia’s best seasons came under the leadership of Terry Francona, a player’s manager who the second baseman held a tight relationship with. Tito and Pedroia had an almost father-son dynamic during their years together in Boston. The relationship with Cora will certainly be different, but the bond between them could still be strong enough to bring out the best in the veteran.

Pedroia never seemed to have that connection with John Farrell. While that may not have impacted him on the field, it certainly could have in the clubhouse. Pedroia was criticized this year for not fulfilling the leadership role that he inherited by default when David Ortiz retired. Part of why Farrell was let go was his inability to control a clubhouse that was spiraling out of control and Pedroia earned his fair share of the blame for that as well.

Cora comes with a reputation for being a great communicator. He listens to his players and seems to have a knack for relating to them. If he can get through to Pedroia in ways Farrell never could, it could go a long way toward helping him on and off the field.

The new manager can do the same for a lot of these players, but his connection to Pedroia is the strongest. As the veteran of the roster, that connection to Pedroia may also be the most important when it comes to rebuilding the clubhouse chemistry.

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This will be a different clubhouse atmosphere next season with Cora at the helm, which should be to the team’s benefit. His relationship with Pedroia is simply one example of how Cora can connect with his new team and his comments provide a reason for us to have faith in him as a rookie manager. If Cora can handle a player a stubborn as Pedroia, there shouldn’t be much else he can’t handle.