Red Sox Manager Alex Cora walks across the field during a spring training team workout this week at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida. Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images


One strange perspective on the 2021 Red Sox being halfway-in on competing this year and halfway-in on building for the future comes from their skipper.

How does a manager whose “all-in” motto led them to a World Series title in his rookie year on the bench now turn away from something that worked so well, all in the name of long-term, sustainable success?

“That’s not going to change,” Alex Cora said. “When it’s April 1, it’s all-in. We’ve got to do everything possible to win as many games as possible and get to October. But obviously, where we’re at right now …”

Cora paused, then backtracked.

Alex Cora, when working under Dave Dombrowski in 2018, could use an all-in mentality without worrying about future ramifications. Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

“It was my first year (in 2018),” he said. “I didn’t know any better. I got here to help this team to win the World Series, so it was like, full blast at that. Now, obviously, it’s a little bit different.”


Under Dave Dombrowski in ’18, Cora’s all-in mentality was a perfect match. He could take various risks that helped win games immediately without worrying about future ramifications.

Now under new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the Red Sox are in the business of building an efficient and sustainable organization, a much different model.

The problem, if one wishes to view it as a problem, is that some of the pitchers Cora has been impressed with this spring are unlikely to be available options when the season starts on April 1.

Service time rules in Major League Baseball are set up to keep the game’s best prospects in the minors to start the year. To make a big league roster on Opening Day would begin a player’s six years of control early, while delaying their debut until mid-season could give the team another year of control.

Pitching prospects Connor Seabold, 25, Jay Groome, 22, and Bryan Mata, 21, are all on the 40-man roster and in camp, but without any service time they’re unlikely to start the year in the big leagues.

But for every rule, there are exceptions. The Sox called up Tanner Houck, 24, to make his big league debut last fall.


Asked Wednesday what the circumstances would need to look like for the Red Sox to have a prospect with no service time start the 2021 season in the big leagues, Bloom said it was situational.

“I think it’s helpful for me to come into camp with a good idea of where you think a player is at right now and things that you can see or that happen in camp that might change your assessment,” Bloom said. “You don’t want it to be just because the player has a few hot weeks and puts up good numbers. But if a player is showing fundamentally differently from what you expected in camp, that might change your thought process.

“There also might be players that come into camp with you fully hoping and expecting that they will seize that opportunity to make the club on Opening Day. And you’re looking for them to check boxes you think they will check.”

On the position player side, one might wonder if Jarren Duran would be competing for the job in center field if he wasn’t also without big league service time. The 24-year-old was the talk of the alternate site last year before impressing in Puerto Rico over the winter. And the Sox, as of yet, have not brought back free agent Jackie Bradley Jr., leaving center field open for competition.

“I think this one falls into the category of never wanting to put a limit on someone and keeping as open of a mind as you can,” Bloom said. “Especially after a year where we don’t know as much about players as we might normally because of the unique situation we had at the alternate site.

“For a guy who hasn’t played Triple-A ball, that’s a big leap. For a guy who has not been an outfielder until recently, that’s a big leap. The progress he’s made over the last couple years shows we probably shouldn’t put anything past him. But it’s certainly not something I think we would want to do because he had a few hot weeks. We’d want to do it if we thought it was really in his best interest in terms of helping him reach his ceiling as quickly as we can get him there. And our best interest as an organization.”


Bloom thinks there’s plenty of competition in center field already.

“I think we have a number of guys on the roster who can play center and can play it pretty well,” he said.

Cora said it was unlikely he’d ask Bloom to have a prospect without service time start the year in the big leagues, but he’s been impressed with what he’s seen.

“It’s about learning and giving them information, but at the same time, getting that good impression,” he said. “That’s part of what they’re here for. But nah, I think those conversations are going to be probably for later (in the year).”

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