Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora held a morning baseball clinic for a small army of youngsters in his hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico, last month. Under the rising sun, Cora hoisted a microphone and introduced some friends from the big leagues who were helping him out, like Alex Cintron, who played nine years in the majors and is now a coach with the Astros.
As Cora spoke, it sounded like he was building to some kind of crescendo -- which was all by design. The last guest instructor to be introduced was Rafael Devers, Boston's 22-year-old third baseman, who had made the journey from the Dominican Republic to join Cora. And as Cora spoke to the crowd of kids and parents, he showered Devers with praise and plaudits.
Cora sincerely appreciated Devers' presence. But this was also a matter of Cora managing in the last days of 2018 for the benefit of the 2019 Red Sox, who will try to become the first team since the 1998-2000 Yankees to repeat as champions. Devers' progress as a player is one of at least four major questions that will loom over Cora's team in the spring.