USA Today Sports

Alex Cora: Rafael Devers becoming an elite defender at third base

Rob Bradford
April 18, 2018 - 3:24 pm

There have been a lot of surprises early on for these Red Sox.

Even with a perceived soft schedule out of the gate, few would have ever predicted their 14-2 start. And dominating in virtually every starting pitching and hitting statistical category couldn't have pegged by most.

But what Alex Cora said on the Dale & Keefe Show Wednesday certainly might trump all the surprises to date.

"A lot of people were worried about Devers at third base. If you see him on a daily basis … Sometimes I joke there’s a tear coming out of my eye. I get emotional when he makes these great plays, just joking around. I’m really proud of what he’s doing," Cora said. "He’s moving his feet. He’s making right decisions and he’s becoming an elite defender at third base. Before the season a lot of people didn’t think that 'elite defender' and 'Devers' should be in the same sentence. They would say, 'You guys are crazy.' But he’s becoming that player."

To make such a proclamation would have been inconceivable after watching Devers both last season and throughout most of spring training.

While Devers was clearly putting the work on the back fields at JetBlue Park, the results for much of the Grapefruit League season were there for the 21-year-old. But since the regular season rolled around, there has been a different image.

The idea of bringing in a defensive replacement for Devers in the late innings of games the Red Sox are leading in has come and gone.

Compared to last year, the third baseman's numbers in the field has clearly improved, with his range factor going from 2.39 to 2.62, and the an improvement of .722 to .838 in zone rating. Devers has made three errors this far, although two of them came on the same play.

The Red Sox' infield defense across the board has been much better than anticipated, with the team making the fewest errors (4) of any Major League Baseball club. (The Yankees have made 17.) For that, Cora once again heaped praise on the newly-revamped analytics department and their director, Zack Scott.

"We’re using more information," he said. "Zack Scott and the analytical team, they send this quote-unquote, defensive package based on who we are using that day. Let’s say like today, most likely it’s going to be Devers, [Tzu-Wei] Lin, [Eduardo] Nunez and Mitch [Moreland], so it goes by range, quickness, who’s on the mound and they try and put the guys in the spots they feel where the ball is going to be hit. Most plays are becoming routine plays. We’re catching the ball and we’re making the throws and we’re getting outs."

Alex Cora joins Dale & Keefe to discuss David Price, Rafael Devers, Shohei Ohtani 4-18-18

Red Sox manager Alex Cora joins Dale & Keefe to discuss his perception of David Price last night, the Sox’ pursuit of Shohei Ohtani, letting pitchers hit and pitch, how the team’s defense became elite, and to drop some praise for Rafael Devers.

Comments ()