Cora, Red So relying heavily on Reonicke
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Experience is a big deal in baseball and the man standing next to rookie Red Sox manager Alex Cora in the dugout is a guy with a lot of it.
The game moves fast and being ahead of the game is a must in Major League Baseball.
Red Sox Bench Coach Ron Roenicke has been there and done that, especially when it comes to the National League, as he was the Milwaukee Brewers manager for five seasons and played all but 59 games of his eight-year Major League career in the Senior Circuit.
Conversation and anticipating situations is a big part of the bench coach’s job and came up big in a situation this week that may have looked like only a subtle move.
Roenicke told me this week what the conversations are like in the dugout during games.
“Early in the game it’s more on the offensive part on different situations that come up every day; they are always different,” he said.
“National League games require more conversations certainly than American League games. Later in the game it is a little different. Some of it involves the pitching. Usually you have constant conversation from the fifth inning on. Even after I managed for a few years, I still wanted that constant conversation just so you don’t get caught off guard with anything that can happen.”
During the recently completed interleague series in Washington over the fourth of July holiday against the Nationals, Cora made his first “double switch” in last Monday’s game.
That is move that is common in the NL but is all but extinct in the AL. In the eighth inning, Cora pinch hit catcher Christian Vazquez in the ninth spot in the batting order, which was the pitcher’s spot in the order.
When the bottom of the inning began, Cora made the switch, lifting catcher Sandy Leon, who was hitting seventh, and brought in pitcher Joe Kelly.
The reliever was inserted into Leon’s spot, while Vazquez remained in the game to catch and hit ninth.
Closer Craig Kimbrel later replaced Kelly and picked up the four-out save. A possibility that was planned for ahead of time.
National League games can present different challenges, especially for American League managers who are not used to them. This is where Roenicke’s experience came in very handy during the series sweep in Washington.
“You don’t want to double switch unless you have to, “ Roenicke explained.
“Once you double switch you are basically set with that spot (in the order). You don’t have that many bench players where you can keep making changes there.”
With the Red Sox making that move in the game they ended up using only one man (Vazquez) from their five-man bench in a one run game (4-3) that ensured they would have options if the game went into extra innings.
First-year Nationals Manager Dave Martinez had an opportunity to double switch later in the game, elected not to and was forced to exhaust his bench.
The Nationals were out of position players with the tying run in scoring position in the ninth inning. Had they tied the game and it went long, Washington would have been forced to have their relief pitchers bat, where the Red Sox had a fortified bench.
El Tiante and the bench coach
Roenicke and popular former Red Sox right hander Luis Tiant have worked together in the past.
In 1994, while Roenicke was a young manager in the Dodgers minor league system at Great Falls (Montana), Tiant was his pitching coach.
“This game can get a little stressful at times and you have to laugh. No matter the situation, Luis could always make me laugh.” Roenicke told me.
Negro Leagues Museum visit
Every year when the Red Sox visit Kansas City, there is a trip organized with a private tour of the Negro Leagues Museum. The Museum is a must-see for anyone when you know Kansas City is in your travel plans. The tour is given by Museum President Bob Kendrick and is like stepping into a living documentary and history lesson.
I have been multiple times and it is fascinating every time.
The Red Sox finish their three-city road trip against Kansas City (2:15) Sunday and begin their final homestand before the All Star Break Monday as the Texas Rangers come to Fenway.
Tim Neverett is in his third season as Play-By-Play Announcer for the WEEI Red Sox Radio Network throughout New England. Tim can be followed on Twitter @timneverett