Cora hopes fans cheer Benintendi in Fenway return: ‘I love that kid'

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Andrew Benintendi will return to Fenway Park on Friday night as a member of the New York Yankees. Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora hopes the fans will look beyond the pinstripes and give the 2018 World Series champion a proper ovation.

Before the series opener, Cora spoke at length about his close relationship with Benintendi, who he managed in 2018 and 2019.

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"I love that kid," Cora said. "That kid, at 7:05, it was fun to see him walk in front of me and saying, 'Let's kick butt' - in another way. Prepared, great athlete, in tune with the game, in tune with his teammates. Quiet. ...

"I really enjoyed managing him. He was ready. He was ready to compete running the bases, on defense, the offense. Obviously made a swing change in '19 and made another swing change now. This is the guy we envisioned - hitting for average, hitting doubles, running the bases, playing good defense. Like I always said, those guys that get drafted that high, they're special.

"Very smart individual, very smart, great baseball player. We talked about the play in Houston. He made that play. He made the adjustment. Nobody brought him in or whatever. He decided to take that step in and we saw the result."

Benintendi didn't leave Boston by choice. He was traded to the Kansas City Royals before the 2021 season for Franchy Cordero, Josh Winckowski, and prospects Freddy Valdez, Luis De La Rosa, and Grant Gambrell. He hit .276 with 17 homers and earned his first Gold Glove award in his debut season with Kansas City. This year, he made his first All-Star team and is currently hitting .305 with a .380 on-base percentage.

On July 27, Benintendi was traded to the Yankees. It may pain Cora to see his former player with a division rival, but it certainly won't affect their bond.

"Looking forward to seeing him as a person. As a player, well, we've gotta do what we're gonna do. It is what it is," Cora said. "It's a business and we're gonna see different guys playing for the teams but he has a special place in my heart."

"I remember when I got the job back, he gave me a call. He FaceTimed me and he was chugging beer - I mean, water. He was so excited I was coming back. It was a special phone call. He was one of the first ones that called me.

"I love that kid. I'm looking forward to seeing him, giving him a big hug. He deserves a great ovation here. I know he's playing for the Yankees and it is what it is, the rivalry and all that, but he's a big part of what we did in '18. That team, we won 108 games, 11 in October against great competition, and he was huge."

Benintendi slashed .273/.353/.435 with 51 homers and 260 RBI through his 485 games in Boston. As Cora mentioned, he made one of the most clutch catches in Red Sox history in Game 4 of the 2018 American League Championship Series.

First pitch for Friday's Red Sox-Yankees matchup is set for 7:10 p.m. ET. Benintendi will bat sixth in the Yankees order.

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