BOSTON — Alex Cora was content to wait one more day. The Red Sox manager seemed rather nonplussed by Thursday’s postponement of the season opener against the Orioles.
What’s generally a circled afternoon on the Boston calendar was moved to Friday, as the threat of rain kept both teams off the field at Fenway Park.
“I’m lucky to be here,” Cora said. “One day, two days, three days — I really don’t care, to be honest with you.”
Cora is set to make his return to the dugout after serving a season-long suspension in 2020. His lineup card was filled out and the Red Sox roster was set prior to the postponement, which was announced in a 9 a.m. release.
“The decision to postpone our first game of the season was not made lightly,” Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy said. “The built-in off day was created for just this purpose and tomorrow’s forecast for sunshine also factored into our decision.”
Tickets for Thursday’s game can be used Friday for the 2:10 p.m. first pitch. It will be the first time in 18 months fans will be allowed to attend a game at Fenway.
Massachusetts COVID-19 restrictions currently allow 12% capacity.
Nathan Eovaldi will take the ball and the expected Boston lineup will include team debuts for Kiké Hernandez, Hunter Renfroe and Marwin Gonzalez.
Franchy Cordero is expected to play left field Saturday, his first game with the Red Sox after an offseason trade from Kansas City. Tanner Houck will earn the start after Eduardo Rodriguez (left elbow inflammation) was officially placed on the 10-day injured list.
“Him going on the IL is nothing long-term,” Cora said. “We ran out of time to build him up. The hope is for him to rejoin us sooner rather than later, and sooner is like next week.”
Houck was 3-0 in his three September starts, and his family is expected to be in the stands for the first time to watch him in person.
Garrett Richards is likely to close the series against the Orioles on Sunday. Nick Pivetta and Martin Perez should start the first two games against the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday and Tuesday at Fenway.
“Like I told you guys in spring training early on, we’re not here to prove people wrong,” Cora said. “We’re here to play baseball. We know we have a good baseball team.”
Cora said he will leave the results of the closer competition private until the season’s first save situation. He’s been unwilling to name Matt Barnes or Adam Ottavino to the role but said he has spoken with both pitchers privately.
Ryan Brasier (left calf strain) will open on the IL, leaving Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor, Hirokazu Sawamura, Phillips Valdez and Austin Brice to set up.
“It’s just a matter of I don’t want to say this is the closer, and there are three outs we can get before and I handcuffed myself,” Cora said. “It’s more for the player than anything else. Both of them, they understand.”Barnes and eight other members of the organization were cleared after a positive COVID-19 test late in camp. The same couldn’t be said of the Washington Nationals, who reported a second positive Thursday and saw their opener against the New York Mets postponed.
Washington could be in the beginning stages of an outbreak — the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins faced makeup games by the handful in a shortened 2020 after widespread positive cases among their players.
“This is where we’re at,” Cora said. “I hate to say it’s a wakeup call for organizations, but you still have to be on top of this. It’s nonstop.
“The next hurdle is you fly to your city and families are in. You hop on a plane and they’re at the airport. Families have to be as disciplined as the players. Coming to the ballpark I was thinking about it. I told you guys what I told the players — you take care of yourself, you’re taking care of your family.”
Gates will open Friday at 12:10 p.m. and pregame ceremonies will begin at 1:40 p.m. Springfield, Mass., native Michelle Brooks-Thompson will perform the national anthem and aircraft from Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire will conduct a flyover.
Boston will honor more than 100 health care workers prior to first pitch and plans to distribute more than 10,000 tickets to them throughout the 2021 season.