BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox hired Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora as manager Sunday, turning to a player from their 2007 World Series championship roster to help the team out of its current playoff slump.
"Returning to the Red Sox and the city of Boston is a dream come true for me and my family," Cora said in a statement released by the team. "I look forward to working towards the ultimate goal of winning another championship for this city and its great fans."
The Red Sox announced the hire Sunday, a day after Cora’s Astros eliminated the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series. With two days off before Houston opens the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston had a chance to hire Cora without running afoul of baseball’s ban on major moves during the Series.
Cora, 42, replaces John Farrell, who led the Red Sox to the 2013 title and in the last two years claimed the first back-to-back AL East championships in franchise history. But Boston also finished last twice in Farrell’s tenure, and the ballclub has won just one playoff game since winning it all in his first season.
"In Alex, we have found a natural leader to guide our clubhouse," Red Sox owner John Henry said. "His baseball acumen and his ability to think strategically are uncommon for someone his age. We could not have found a better match for our players, our front office and for where we intend to go over the coming years."
A native of Puerto Rico, Cora is the first Hispanic manager for a franchise that was the last in the major leagues to field a black player. The Red Sox faced renewed racial scrutiny this season after Orioles outfielder Adam Jones reported being subjected to racial slurs at Fenway Park.
A day later, a fan was banned from the ballpark for life for using racial slurs in the stands. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said at the time the episode made him feel "deep remorse that these things happen in our society.
"But it’s the reality of the world that we live in," he said. "Hopefully, this is a step forward."
Cora has been the general manager for the Criollos de Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League for the past five years, while also serving as the club’s manager for the past two years.
Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski said the fact that Cora is bilingual was "very significant for our club." He also praised Cora’s willingness to work with modern statistical analytics, and his success relating to both young players and veterans.
Cora played 14 years in the major leagues before retiring in 2011, including parts of four seasons with the Red Sox. He was a lifetime .243 hitter with 35 homers and 286 RBIs. In 2003, he led the league in putouts and double plays by a second baseman.
"Alex is a guy that communicates well with the players; he’s a guy that studies the game," Astros designated hitter Carlos Beltran said this month. "His preparation is above what I have seen in baseball, and he has a great personality.
"He’s intense — players like to see it. But at the same time, he is a guy that can sit down in the clubhouse with the players and have a baseball conversation," Beltran said. "So he’s got the skills and I love it. He’s been a big help for this organization. He takes a lot of pride into relationships with the players."