ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Boston Red Sox’ inevitable reality came Friday when they were officially eliminated from reaching the postseason, but Alex Cora doesn’t have any regrets about how it all unfolded.

After emptying the tank with a win-at-all-costs approach to capture the 2018 World Series, Cora reduced the workload for his starters in spring training in a plan that ultimately backfired, with the Red Sox getting off to an abysmal 11-17 start in which starting pitching was a key culprit.

The manager, though, still believes it was a necessary approach after what the starters had to do to win a championship last season.

“What these guys did last year, you guys lived it,” Cora said. “I mean, I still remember Game 3 in Houston, David (Price) is in the tub, he calls me in, ‘Hey, come here.’ He said, ‘I’m in the bullpen.’ I said, ‘Yeah, tomorrow.’ He said, ‘No, no, no, I’m in the bullpen tonight.’ The grind and what they went through, it wasn’t easy. We structured our spring training based on that. It wasn’t that far off from what we did two years ago, and it just happened that we didn’t pitch well. …

“I think, obviously, this is a group that has been doing it for what, three years in a row, playing all the way to the end. Sometimes, hey, that grind costs you. I think at the end, there’s no excuses, we didn’t play well. We were very inconsistent. When we got hot, other teams stayed hot.”

The Red Sox became the fifth team in the last seven years to win the World Series and fail to make the playoffs the following year, joining the 2012 Giants, 2013 Red Sox, 2014 Giants and 2015 Royals. Cora wasn’t sure exactly the reason, but believes they had a target on their back after winning the World Series.

Cora saw it early in the season. During the first week, one opposing pitcher struck a Red Sox player out, and Cora described the emotion he had as “October-like.” Teams seemed a little bit more amped to play the Sox.

“There’s something about coming in the next year and the level of play on a daily basis, night in and night out, it’s a little bit different emotionally,” Cora said. “I don’t know if that’s the reason. I feel like that’s something that I learned this year. It’s different. It’s different. I don’t know. Last year, when we went to Houston, we were very excited, going over there. When they came home, it was the same thing. I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s the reason teams haven’t made it or whatever, but that’s one of the reasons the season is different.”

Cora also didn’t rule out a hangover effect. If the Sox were taxed coming into the season after last October, it certainly showed in the first month.

“It’s not easy, man,” Cora said. “The grind of going through the whole thing is gratifying. We were talking about it yesterday. We only lost 57 games as a group. Locked in mentally. And then the offseason becomes short. Sometimes, it’s great … give me the short offseason the whole time. As far as preparation and all that, you’re in a rush. I do feel that going into the season, you prepare the right way, you do everything possible, but that first month is very important. You have a target.”

Cora said he was looking forward to a full offseason – one that he hasn’t had in a long time – to develop a plan and put what he learned this season into action.

“There’s no excuses,” the manager said. “We will get better. We will attack the offseason the right way. You see it right now. The way they’re going about their business, that’s very gratifying, because they have to earn it. It’s not that we come in here and, hey, go ahead, win three out of four and move on. There’s certain things we’re going to get better at and we’re taking a look at a few things. Obviously, there’s still a question mark of what’s going to happen with the organization in the upcoming days and weeks or months, you don’t know. But as far as the staff and what we’re doing, I’m already working for next year.”

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