CINCINNATI — Alex Cora knows exactly how long it’s been since he last started a game for the Nationals. One month and one day, to be precise.
He knows this not because he’s bitter or because he thinks he should be playing over any of the Nationals other infielders, but just because he knows. He’s been in games since July 27, sure. He’s served as a pinch hitter in 14 games and as a defensive replacement in two (once at shortstop and once at first base).
But until Sunday afternoon when he got a start at third base to rest Ryan Zimmerman, he hadn’t started a single game. And he’s not exactly known as a pinch hitter.
“Whoever says they’re happy to be a bench player, they’re lying,” Cora said Sunday morning. “Do I accept my role? Of course I do. I accepted it when I got traded from Cleveland to Boston (in July 2005). I understand that it takes 25 guys to win.”
Still, Cora also knows how hard it can be to stay sharp and able to perform when called upon when you’re playing so infrequently. It’s not a fact that was lost on his manager, either, as Davey Johnson has mentioned it to the media countless times that he’s not using his bench the way he wants, not getting guys like Cora enough playing time. But it’s the nature of the beast.The Nationals have two of their youngest, most promising talents in the middle infield in Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa and Johnson wants them to be in the lineup every day. They need to be, to help their development.
With that in mind, Johnson and Cora sat down for a chat two days ago to keep the manager and the player on the same page — and make sure this time is a learning experience for all, not just Desmond and Espinosa.
“it was a very honest talk,” Cora said. “I understand. I understand the process. And, as he said, you never know. In X amount of years, I could be in that position, making that decision.
“The way I see it, it’s not that I’m ready to retire, because I’m not… but it’s good for me to sit there, watch and learn how Davey’s doing things. That’s part of the learning process. For me personally, in a few years, (playing) is going to be over but something else might start.”