Boston Red Sox infielder and former Portland Sea Dog Michael Chavis poses for a photo with Slugger at the annual Sea Dogs Hot Stove Dinner on Wednesday in South Portland. Chavis said of Alex Cora’s firing, “You hate to see somebody lose their job like that. I feel lucky to have had the experience with him, to be able to learn so much from him.” Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

SOUTH PORTLAND – Every January, the Portland Sea Dogs’ front office and fans gather for the Hot Stove Dinner, an evening of excitement and anticipation of a new baseball season. This year’s event, held Wednesday night at the Sable Oaks Sheraton, was enveloped in news of the parent club’s latest move.

Red Sox Manager Alex Cora and the team parted ways on Tuesday after a cheating scandal that began when he was with the Astros in 2017.

“Shocking to see it,” said Sea Dogs Manager Joe Oliver (and, it is now official that Oliver is coming back for a second season in Portland; the Red Sox usually announce these things, but they’ve been a bit busy).

Oliver, 54, is a 13-year big leaguer. He is in favor of a crackdown on stealing signs. “I think it’s going to be good for baseball, the way they are going about cleaning it up – create that continued fair balance.

Sea Dogs manager Joe Oliver is glad to see Major League Baseball cracking down on electronic sign-stealing. “I think it’s going to be good for baseball, the way they are going about cleaning it up – create that continued fair balance.” Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

“It’s a shame because both of those guys (Cora and fired Houston Manager AJ Hinch) are really good people. They have no true ill will at heart. It was just something that … it’s unfortunate.”

Former Sea Dogs corner infielder Michael Chavis was the featured guest Wednesday night. Chavis, 24, played for the Sea Dogs during parts of the 2017-18 seasons before reaching the major leagues last season, under Cora. Initially thought to be a temporary call-up on April 20, Chavis played his way into the lineup and stayed with the Red Sox until injuries ended his season in mid-August.

Chavis will be fighting for a job this spring – but he does not know who his manager will be.

“I’ve been trying to pay attention (to the news), while trying to filter out all the speculation and assumptions,” Chavis said.

“I hate to see (Cora gone). Alex helped me out a lot last year. He’s a very good, genuine person. You hate to see somebody lose their job like that. I feel lucky to have had the experience with him, to be able to learn so much from him.”

The Red Sox are also being investigated for using video technology to steal signs, under Cora, during the 2018 season.

“I wasn’t part of the big league team in 2018. I didn’t see firsthand anything that happened,” Chavis said.

Cora, besides being a talented manager, was a presence in the Red Sox organization, staying in touch with nearly everyone, from scouts to minor leaguers.

“I talked to (Cora) a few times,” said Sea Dogs relief pitcher Adam Lau, who joined Chavis and Oliver as guests Wednesday. “He was great guy. I really liked him.

“This (Cora’s firing) is a shocker. You never see stuff like that coming.”

Cora’s departure won’t have a huge effect on the minor leagues. A bigger impact might be felt from the hiring of the new boss, team president Chaim Bloom, who replaced the fired Dave Dombrowski.

“I have not met Chaim. We exchanged emails,” Oliver said. “From everyone I’ve spoken to, that has some type of relationship with him, they say wonderful things about him. I’m excited to meet him. Just getting on the right side of the rope and pulling together.”

That “pulling” begins next month in Fort Myers, Florida, for spring training.

Chavis, who ended the year with a sprained shoulder, then a tweaked oblique, is ready. But at what position? Chavis was a high school shortstop when the Red Sox drafted him in the first round in 2014. They moved Chavis to third base. Once Chavis got to Portland – with third baseman Rafael Devers ahead of him – Chavis began spending time at first base.

In Boston, Chavis played first base (49 games) as well as second base (45 games) as one of the fill-ins for the injured Dustin Pedroia.

So, what do we call Chavis now?

“Baseball player,” he said. “I don’t really know what my actual position will be this upcoming year. I learned to play second base during major league spring training last year – no pressure” (Chavis smiled).

This offseason, Chavis has concentrated on improving at second base – “a lot of it is footwork … the movements around second base.”

With Pedroia’s return in question, and Boston unlikely to re-sign Brock Holt, the Red Sox are looking for second-base help. In December they signed free-agent middle infielder Jose Peraza, who played four seasons with the Reds.

Chavis is likely to see a lot of time at first base. Boston does not appear willing to re-sign Mitch Moreland, and the Red Sox just traded Sam Travis to Texas. That leaves Chavis, with the outside possibility of Bobby Dalbec playing first – although the former Sea Dogs middle infielder has played only 30 games in Triple-A. Chavis appears the front-runner there.

“Wherever I’m needed,” Chavis said, “I want to be available.”

Where Chavis and others settle in will be up to the manager (To Be Announced).


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