BOSTON -- For the majority of his four seasons as a utility infielder with the Red Sox, Alex Cora wore No. 23. Nearly a decade later, the most relevant number associated with him will be 47.
Cora was hired Sunday as the 47th manager in Red Sox history, the team announced Sunday. After one season as the Houston Astros' bench coach, he will take the reins of a young Red Sox team that won 93 games and the division title in back-to-back seasons under deposed manager John Farrell.
"Returning to the Red Sox and the city of Boston is a dream come true for me and my family and I look forward to working towards the ultimate goal of winning another championship for this city and its great fans."Alex Cora
Cora received a three-year contract with a club option for 2021, a source told ESPN.
Because Cora and the Astros are still playing, having advanced to the World Series with a 4-0 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night in Houston, the Red Sox were unable to introduce Cora at Fenway Park. A news conference will have to wait until after the World Series, which begins Tuesday.
"I am extremely honored and humbled to be named manager of the Boston Red Sox," Cora said in a statement announcing his hiring. "Returning to the Red Sox and the city of Boston is a dream come true for me and my family and I look forward to working towards the ultimate goal of winning another championship for this city and its great fans."
Cora thanked the Astros "for giving me the chance to start my coaching career."
"It has been a very special season and an incredible organization to be a part of and I am looking forward to the World Series and winning with this group," he said.
Cora is the 22nd former Red Sox player to manage the team and the first since Butch Hobson (1992-94). Cora is also the second Puerto Rico native to be a full-time manager in the majors, joining former Marlins skipper Edwin Rodriguez. Sandy Alomar Jr. served as an interim manager for the Cleveland Indians for six games in 2012.
Boston's decision to hire Cora comes after an expedited 11-day search. Within the past week, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski met with three candidates -- Cora, former Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and longtime Minnesota Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire, who has since been hired by the Tigers -- before settling on Cora, who also interviewed for openings with the New York Mets and the Tigers.
Cora quickly emerged as the Red Sox's top candidate. Dombrowski traveled to New York on Oct. 15 to interview Cora on an off day in the ALCS. A few days later, Cora spoke by phone with Red Sox owner John Henry.
"Alex brings a lot to the table, my friend," Astros designated hitter Carlos Beltran said. "He's a guy that always is looking for information that he could use against the opposite team. He has good communication with the guys, respects the guys. He's always in the clubhouse getting to know the players, getting to know which buttons he could push on each player to make them go out there and play the game hard, which is great."
Beltran also told ESPN's Marly Rivera that he doesn't see Cora's departure as a loss for the Astros.
"I see it as a gain [for baseball]," he said. "There are only 30 jobs in the major leagues, and a Puerto Rican having one of those jobs, not only a job in the majors because the majors can refer to any team, but such a big market, it makes me very proud. I know that Alex is going to do an excellent job."
Both Beltran and shortstop Carlos Correa told Rivera they believe the Red Sox's hiring of Cora will open doors for more Latinos to become managers in Major League Baseball. Maybe even for Beltran himself.
"We'll see. But yes, I have talked to my wife and I have told her that's something I'd like to do in the future, [to manage] a major league team and have that opportunity," Beltran told ESPN. "I have played this game for many years and I am proud to have been able to contribute to players' careers. So if I am given that opportunity at some point, I know I'm going to do well."
Indeed, Cora is viewed within the industry as a strong communicator. A bilingual speaker, he has been praised for his ability to relate to players of all backgrounds. He's also only six seasons removed from a 14-year playing career, and at age 42, he will be the third-youngest manager in the majors after Tampa Bay's Kevin Cash and San Diego's Andy Green. Cora is only one month older than Red Sox great David Ortiz, who retired following the 2016 season.
According to sources familiar with Cora's thinking, he views the Red Sox as a ready-to-win opportunity -- a rare situation for a first-time major league manager -- whereas the Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies are in various stages of rebuilding.
The Red Sox, in turn, are hoping Cora will bring more positivity to a clubhouse that was unusually dour despite the team's success during Farrell's final season. Cora is close with veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia, with whom he played for three seasons from 2006 to 2008. He also might be able to draw out the leadership qualities in Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and other members of the Red Sox's young core.
To Dombrowski, those qualities -- and an enthusiastic endorsement from Astros manager A.J. Hinch -- outweighed the fact that Cora hasn't managed in the big leagues and has only one year of experience as a major league coach. He has managed a winter-ball team in Puerto Rico and served as general manager for Puerto Rico's team in the World Baseball Classic.
"He's all about the competition and small advantages within the game," Hinch said. "One of the brightest baseball intellects that I've ever been around. He challenges people. He challenges me. He's someone who's all about winning. And to watch our players respond to him, he's got a lot of respect in that clubhouse because of the work he puts in and the attention to detail that he brings. That's why he's the hottest managerial candidate on the planet, and deservedly so."