Cora says Red Sox clubhouse isn’t divided

BALTIMORE — Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora pushed back against recent media discussion of what could be perceived as a racial divide in the Boston clubhouse ahead of the team’s trip to the White House on Thursday.

Cora and several Red Sox players will not attend the ceremony with President Donald Trump. But the manager, speaking after a 2-1 extra-inning victory against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, said those absences should not be misconstrued as a divided clubhouse.

“There’s been a lot of talk about what’s going on tomorrow and the clubhouse and we’re divided with race and politics,” Cora said. “Those kids went out there and played their hearts out. We know who we are in the clubhouse. I know a lot of people doubt that, but we did what we did last year and cancelled the noise. We showed up every day and we played.”

In January, Cora was outspoken about his native Puerto Rico’s need for relief after Hurricane Maria killed an estimated 2,975 people there. At the time, Cora indicated he’d consider skipping the World Series champion’s visit to the nation’s capital in response to Trump’s policy toward the country, and he officially announced Sunday that he would not attend.

“For everybody that’s talking about us and the situation and crushing us throughout the week. They played extra innings, didn’t give in and they’re celebrating [reliever] Heath [Hembree] because of his first save and celebrating [outfielder] Jackie [Bradley Jr., who made a game-saving catch] and we go,” Cora said on Thursday. “There’s a group going home. There’s a group going to the White House. Friday we get back to playing baseball.”

Among the Red Sox players opting out of Thursday’s trip are Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers, Sandy Leon, Eduardo Nunez, David Price, Christian Vazquez and Hector Velazquez, all of color. Roughly 20 other players will attend the ceremonies at the White House.

“Politically, it didn’t matter who was in the White House,” said Hembree, who is white. “If I have an opportunity to go to the White House and meet the president, I’m going to go. Nobody tried to persuade me. They have their reasons why not to go.”

Added pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, a Venezuelan native: “For me, it’s not a big deal. It’s your decision. Make a choice. I’ll respect it. I don’t think that’s a big deal. If you want to go or you don’t want to go, that’s your decision.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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