Alex Cora called managing the American League All-Stars “one of the best baseball experiences I’ve ever had in my life.”
The Red Sox manager made some moves to try and heighten that experience for others, too.
With two outs in the ninth inning, Cora sent retiring Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia out to the mound to visit his teammate, closer Aroldis Chapman, so that Sabathia, who began his career with the Indians (2001-08) and won a Cy Young Award in Cleveland, could get a curtain call from the Progressive Field crowd.
Sabathia, 39, had said before the season that this would be his last go-round, so Cora, a teammate of Sabathia with the 2005 Indians, was instrumental in getting the left-hander added unofficially to the AL roster so he could soak in one more All-Star experience.
“Alex was the one who contacted me and asked me if I would do it. If I had any plans,” Sabathia told Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. “I was honored that he asked. He contacted the league and made it all happen. That he even thought about me like that, I was honored.”
Cora said his Yankees rival deserved the send-off. New York won’t face Cleveland again this season unless it’s in the postseason.
“The fans recognize he’s been one of the best pitchers in the big leagues,” Cora said. “The guy has won more than 250 games, 3,000 strikeouts. Everything started here in Cleveland. We all know he’s going to retire. I was like, ‘Hey, let everybody know who he is.’ I think it was a nice tribute.”
Cora also engineered a matchup between brothers-in-law Jose Berrios of the Twins and Javy Baez of the Cubs in the third inning. All three are from Puerto Rico. Cora had Berrios start the third with Baez due up fourth that inning. Their confrontation lasted one pitch – a changeup that Baez hit to left for a fly out to end the inning.
Cora did draw the ire of Orioles fans by saving Baltimore’s lone All-Star representative, left-hander John Means, in case the game went extra innings, which didn’t happen once Chapman closed out the 4-3 AL victory after Sabathia’s visit.
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