BOSTON (CBS) — With their World Series title now in the past, Red Sox manager Alex Cora is thinking ahead to next season.
And the Sox skipper has already made a big change to his lineup for 2019. Cora is flipping the top of his order and will have Andrew Benintendi lead off, with Mookie Betts now in the two-spot, the Boston manager announced Tuesday at the MLB Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.
It’s a change that Cora has been contemplating since Boston clinched their championship in late October.
“It makes sense. You guys saw what happened towards the end of the season, [Mookie] became very passive again,” Cora said Tuesday. “I know what type of hitter he is. But I think doing that, Benny can be aggressive, too, and he’s a good runner. He gets on base, and I put it this way to Mookie: ‘If you play 162 games, you’re going to come up 162 at-bats with nobody on.’ And last year, what I wanted from him in the leadoff spot we accomplished. It’s a different season and we have to make adjustments, and that’s where we’re going to go.”
The 2018 AL MVP, Betts hit leadoff in all 131 games he started for the Red Sox last season. He hit .346 with an outstanding 1.083 OPS for Boston, but 23 of his 32 homers came with the bases empty. Cora is hoping that changes next season with Benintendi now slated to hit in in from of him.
“It’s not that we did it wrong last year. It worked for us, but it’s a new season,” Cora said Tuesday. “And we have to turn the page, and I think that’s a good way to do it.”
Benintendi is no slouch in the leadoff spot, either. He hit at the top of the order in 21 games last season, going 28-for-87 with five homers, 15 RBIs and 17 runs scored, slashing .322/.381/.598 to go with a .979 OPS.
Now we just have to wait three-and-a-half months to see Cora’s change in action. The Red Sox open their 2019 season on March 28 against the Mariners in Seattle.