Boston Red Sox

What we know, so far, is that Alex Cora has a long-term plan. Like the Red Sox manager he played for, Terry Francona, Cora expects to be playing in October, so he is managing both the Red Sox pitching staff and positional roster accordingly.

But the in-game stuff?

We’re going to have to keep an eye on it.

Let’s back up here for a second. On Friday, Cora elected to give J.D. Martinez a day off, which seemed curious given that Martinez had just gone 8-for-12 with a home run and three extra-base hits in a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels. Cora has told us that this sort of decision is pre-determined, and it makes sense for Cora for two reasons. First, Martinez gets a break that should benefit him later. Second, Mitch Moreland gets playing time that keeps him engaged, which could prove especially valuable because the red Sox are going to need him at some point.

So what happened? Moreland hit a grand slam – the Red Sox’ fifth of the season – in a 7-3 victory. Everyone was a winner.

(Photo: USA Today Sports)

But as we all know, in-game decisions require more thinking on one’s feet, because there is often no way to fully prepare for what transpires.

On Sunday, the Red Sox and A’s were tied at 1 when Cora sent David Price out to pitch the eighth, a debatable decision given that the Red Sox have said they intend to protect their starters throughout the regular season. So fine. Cora deviated a little. Price’s pitch count was low, the leadoff man (Bruce Maxwell) was left-handed and price generally had been cruising.

Now here’s the part that didn’t make sense:

Even with all of those factors, right-hander Carson Smith was up warming before Price threw a pitch in the eighth. After Maxwell, the A’s had scheduled two right-handed batters, switch-hitter Jed Lowrie and the right-handed Khris Davis. Given that Lowrie is a weaker hitter from the left side, Smith essentially could have faced four straight hitters with a favorable matchup.

Incredibly, Price incredibly faced four right-handed batters in a row. Worse, three of them got hits, including the decisive three-run home run from Davis that propelled Oakland to a 4-1 win. Price regretted the pitch as soon as he threw it.

(Photo: USA Today Sports)

Now here’s the part of the situation that should really bug you: Cora was ready to put Smith in the game. He had him up and warming, which means he knew the matchups that awaited. But in the heat of moment, with seconds to make a decision, he chose to stay with Price, even though everything leading up to that suggested he was ready to go to Smith.

So what happened? Good question. Maybe Cora went with his gut. Maybe he went with his heart. For what it’s worth, Francona made similar mistakes during the early part of his first season with Boston in 2004, but we all know that he had cleaned things up with regard to his game management by the time the club got to October.

Last week, Cora acknowledged that he is a rookie manager and that he will make mistakes. He said his goal is to make as few as possible.

More important is that he make them now instead of in October.

— By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

You can hear Mazz weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program, and from 6-7 p.m. on The Baseball Reporters. And you can get a closer look every Tuesday and Friday with the Behind The Seams blog. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.