Cora: MVP favorite Mookie Betts could play 2B for Red Sox in World Series

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Fans interfere with Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts trying to catch a ball hit by Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve during the first inning in Game 4 of a baseball American League Championship Series on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Houston. Altuve was called out. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
BOSTON — With a championship at stake, MVP favorite Mookie Betts is ready to do anything manager Alex Cora asks.

Even if that means dusting off his infielder’s mitt.

Cora said Saturday he may use the Gold Glove Award-winning right fielder at second base during the World Series, a move that would make space for slugger J.D. Martinez when the series shifts to an NL park.

Martinez has two homers and nine RBIs as Boston’s designated hitter this postseason, and when Boston loses the DH for games either at Los Angeles or Milwaukee, Cora has to find space for him on the field. His best position is right field, but that’s also where Betts has played while winning two straight Gold Gloves.

So Betts may be moving to the dirt.

“A.C. has never steered us wrong,” Betts said. “Naturally, if he trusts me then I should believe in myself. That’s what it takes to win. I’ll do whatever.”

Boston was set to learn its World Series opponent Saturday night when the Dodgers and Brewers played Game 7 of the NL Championship Series, and that will influence how Cora stacks his lineup for Games 3, 4 and 5 if necessary. Betts at second is a possibility, but not a certainty.

“I don’t know, man,” Cora said. “He already played second during the regular season. So, there’s always a chance, I guess.”

Betts was a second baseman throughout his minor league career and played 14 games there as a rookie in 2014, relieving an injured Dustin Pedroia. He also played second for six innings against the Yankees on Aug. 3 after Ian Kinsler was hurt.

He takes grounders before games during the regular season and was at the keystone for some work Saturday when Boston practiced at Fenway Park.

“He’ll take ground balls as always. That’s not gonna change,” Cora said. “But obviously we’ll see who we play and matchups.”

Among the advantages to moving Betts to second: it could help keep ALCS MVP Jackie Bradley Jr. in the lineup. Kinsler and Brock Holt would likely go to the bench with Betts at second.

“We’ve got some pretty good second basemen, we’ve got some pretty good outfielders,” Cora said. “We’re in the World Series. That conversation was gonna come up. One thing for sure, J.D. will play. That’s clear. We’ll see which alignment is better, which lineup is better and we’ll make decisions accordingly.”

Betts drew positive reviews as an infielder in the minor leagues, but he’s only played 128 innings there as a major leaguer. Cora has never seen him play the position in person — he was ejected from the Aug. 3 game against the Yankees before Betts replaced Kinsler.

“I was just joking with him that there’s a reason he’s the right fielder,” Cora said. “He feels he’s good at second. I don’t know. I never saw it. If you asked him he’ll say, ‘I’m great.’”

BELLY ITCHER?

Chris Sale has resumed throwing and says he’s ready to pitch Game 1 of the World Series after missing an ALCS start and being hospitalized with an illness. Sale threw a bullpen session Saturday and said he will go through his normal routine before taking the mound at Fenway Park for Tuesday’s opener.

First, though, the ace left-hander had some fun with reporters when asked about the ailment, saying it was caused by irritation from a belly-button ring.

Although Sale remained deadpan during the comment, he has not been observed with a pierced navel.

Sale was initially slated to pitch Game 5 of the ALCS but was ruled out after the illness left him weak.

Sale called it a dream to get the ball for Game 1 of the World Series.

“We’re gonna grind like hell and give it everything we’ve got,” he said.

NO MORE TIPPING

Cora thinks he has good reason for renewed confidence in closer Craig Kimbrel: the All-Star is no longer tipping his pitches.

Cora suspects both the Yankees and Astros picked up on something in Kimbrel’s routine that was revealing which pitch was coming this postseason.

Kimbrel has a save in each of his five appearances this postseason, but he allowed runs in each of his first four outings as he struggled to control of his fastball, surrendering six hits and five walks.

Kimbrel was on the mound at the end of Game 4 of the ALCS when left fielder Andrew Benintendi came up with diving catch with the bases loaded for the final out to help the Red Sox escape with an 8-6 victory over the Astros.

Cora later got a text from Eric Gagne, a good friend and Cora’s teammate when both played for the Red Sox in 2007, alerting him of Kimbrel’s possible tipping.

“Too bad that it took so long. But it was figured out,” Cora said. “I’ve got a lot of friends around the league.”

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