FORT MYERS, Fla. — Admittedly there are only a few precincts reporting and it’s far too early to call the race. Yet with one week under his belt, Alex Cora is already starting to show what kind of manager he’ll be in 2018.

We know he’s going to be a player’s manager. That term has been used as a pejorative over the years in Boston. Traditionally we want a strict manager who will keep his team in line and crack the whip when needed.

These are different times. Cora is here because of his connectivity with players, especially the young core that makes up the Red Sox roster.

There are 13 players on the 40-man roster who are 25 or younger. Cora isn’t that young, but at 42 will be the youngest Sox manager to start a season since Kevin Kennedy did it at age 40 in 1995.

Cora was playing just six years ago. He remembers what a team feels like when a new manager steps in.

“I know I went through that process,” said Cora. “It’s always like ‘Let’s see how he acts. Let’s see what he brings to the table.’ I’m comfortable. I’m comfortable with the situation and comfortable with the group.”

That comfortable feeling is reciprocal. It’s clear that Cora remembers what spring training feels like to a player. He and pitching coach Dana LaVangie have convinced their top starting pitchers to ease off their early-season Grapefruit League workload in favor of live bullpen sessions that hopefully will help them build up arm strength while keeping them fresher for a full season of work.

Cora also is trying to simplify the game for his players. He’s already vowed to limit the constantly changing lineups some teams feature against lefties or righties. He wants his players to focus on their strengths, not worry about the pitcher’s.

“You put the best lineup out there,” said Cora. “I hate to bring up last year because I want to turn the page, but you saw what happened at the end. (The Astros) had five righties. It didn’t matter. If you can hit, you can hit.”

That will be good news for players like Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr., who often found themselves sitting out against left-handed pitchers last season.

Another bit of good news is Cora wants his team to be more aggressive at the plate. He constantly talks about his hitters’ need to “hunt strikes.” Today’s game is dominated by bullpens well stocked with power arms. The philosophy of working pitch counts to get past that day’s starter is a thing of the past.

“We used to wait them out, said Cora, “but that was 10 years ago, 13 years ago. It’s been a while. Now it’s a different game. I had a conversation with Mikey (Lowell) about that. I said ‘Mikey, the starters go four or five innings. It’s not that you bring in the 87-88 (mph) cutter/sinker/breaking ball guy. Now the guy in the sixth inning is 97 with a great off-speed pitch, a secondary pitch.’ I’m a big believer when you get to that starter, if you can get to him right away, you get him. Either he’ll get you or you’ll get him.”

Last year Cora was the bench coach on an Astros team that took the second-fewest pitches per plate appearance in the American League. The Astros didn’t wait around to face middle relief. They hit .382 on first pitches last season.

And they won the World Series.

Cora is a young, aggressive manager. He’s hoping his young players can be aggressive at the plate. It will be one of many philosophical changes he brings north with him at the end of March.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.