Red Sox shuffle bench, add Cora

By Jim Callis

July 7, 2005

Though they’re the defending World Series champs and have a four-game lead in the American League East, the Red Sox aren’t above some fine-tuning. After designating reserve outfielder Jay Payton for assignment early Thursday—amid rumors it already has worked out a yet-to-be-announced deal for him—Boston made another move with its bench by picking up Alex Cora from Cleveland in exchange for Ramon Vazquez.

Cora, 29, signed with the Indians after the Dodgers nontendered him during the offseason. He served as a backup with Cleveland and will do the same for Boston, capable of playing both middle-infield positions and sticking out more with his glove than with his bat. He has good range and arm strength to go with average speed, but as a hitter he doesn’t produce for average or power and doesn’t draw many walks. He batted .205/.250/.288 with one homer, eight RBIs and six steals in 49 games for the Indians, and has career averages of .243/.310/.347 with 28 homers, 181 RBIs and 24 swipes in 733 contests. Cora will be eligible for free agency after the season.

Cora will play the role Boston had hoped Vazquez would fill after acquiring him in a trade with the Padres centering around Dave Roberts in December. But Vazquez, 28, hurt a quad muscle in April and was of little use to the Red Sox, hitting .197/.234/.230 in 61 at-bats before being demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday. Vazquez was a regular for San Diego in 2002-03 before losing the second-base job to Mark Loretta and the shortstop job to Khalil Greene, and he hasn’t played well as a reserve the last two years. He’s more versatile than effective. He can play second, third and short, but he’s not much of a threat using an inside-out swing at the plate. He has good speed and instincts on the bases, and he’s more steady than spectacular in the field. Arbitration-eligible after the season, Vazquez is a career .259/.329/.337 hitter with six homers and 83 RBIs in 340 games.