It’s always tempting to connect the dots.
Red Sox prospect Jarren Duran has started spending time in left field at the alternate site in Worcester. Aside from a half-dozen innings in spring training this year, the appearances by Duran — a college infielder who played exclusively in center field in both the 2019 minor league season and at the alternate site in 2020 — in left represented a novelty.
The prospect’s work at a new position is all the more intriguing given the ongoing struggles of Red Sox corner outfielders Franchy Cordero (.200/.265/.244) and Hunter Renfroe (.176/.241/.255). The Red Sox aren’t at the point of giving up on either, but their outfield situation hardly seems settled for the long haul.
Meanwhile, Duran is a glowing talent with elite speed whose swing changes since the 2019-20 offseason have unlocked the potential for an intriguing power/speed combination in a player with the potential to emerge as an everyday center fielder.
“He’s such a dynamic player . . . It’s been really impressive to see a guy who was dynamic with his old swing really just add another element of a way to beat you,” Red Sox minor league outfield/baserunning coordinator Darren Fenster said. “Credit to him — three years ago, he was an infielder when he was drafted. He’s put himself in the conversation to profile as an everyday center fielder in the big leagues.”
Yet while Duran’s eventual future could be in center, a player’s first big league opportunity usually comes in response to roster need. With that in mind, as the Red Sox try to add roster depth in case of injury or continued struggles, they wanted Duran to get time at a new position.
“If there is an opportunity for [Duran] to get to the big leagues at some point this season or in the future, if he gets put in left field at Fenway Park, we don’t want that to be the first time he’s playing left field in a professional baseball game,” Sox farm director Brian Abraham said. “We want players to feel comfortable in an uncomfortable spot and to prepare guys for the potential for there to be different things that happen, whether it be a transaction or an injury. The more versatile the player, the better chance they have of impacting the big league club.”
While the Sox are trying to increase the number of potential pathways for Duran to the big leagues, that doesn’t mean a callup is imminent. The 24-year-old still has yet to play an official minor league game above Double A.
With the Triple-A season set to begin May 4, the Sox believe Duran will benefit both from a chance to prove he can deliver consistent offensive impact while also improving his defensive reads and routes in center and the outfield corners. The team’s goal is to help Duran develop to the point where he’s capable not just of helping as a brief fill-in but instead where he can be seen as a more permanent outfield option.
“It’s some of the smaller things we’re working on to help push their games to the next level so it’s not just a short-term callup,” Abraham said. “To put a timeline on [when a player is big league-ready] is certainly hard, but I think the consistent work, the ability to get reps every day and be able to make adjustments, gain consistency in Triple A is so important before a guy gets that opportunity.”
Meet the Mets
With the Red Sox in New York to face the Mets, manager Alex Cora will get a chance to visit with Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor. The two enjoy a close relationship that was strengthened during the 2017 World Baseball Classic, when Cora served as the GM and Lindor a star contributor for Team Puerto Rico.
“The passion for the game is amazing,” Cora said of Lindor. “He cares about winning. He understands on a daily basis what he needs to do and what his team needs to do to win.”
Lindor, in his first season with the Mets following an offseason trade from Cleveland, is off to a slow start, hitting .210/.324/.274. Nonetheless, Cora believes Lindor — who signed a 10-year, $341 million extension with the Mets that takes effect next year — is a hand-in-glove fit for his new team and city.
“When he got traded to New York, I was like well, this is kind of like perfect for him, not only on the field but off the field . . . He has this big personality and he’s not afraid of the spotlight,” Cora said. “I hate playing against him because he is that good, but I enjoy playing against him because although I’m a manager, he feels like he needs to kick my [tail] for two days and I feel the same way. It should be fun. It will be good to see him there.”
The Red Sox will get a glimpse of Mets ace of aces Jacob deGrom in Wednesday’s finale The 32-year-old righthander — whose fastball has averaged 98.9 mph, the highest velocity of any starter this year — is off to one of the most dominant starts in big league history, carrying a 2-1 record with a 0.31 ERA, 50 strikeouts, and three walks in 29 innings.
“He’s really fun to watch. His delivery is so smooth and so efficient, that’s part of the reason he creates velo and has the command to go with it,” Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush said. “We saw him last year, too, and we held our own. We actually won the game when he pitched against us last year so it’ll be fun to watch and I’m glad we get to face him and see how we do.”
Extra credit for Martinez
J.D. Martinez is tied for the major league lead with seven homers and leads the big leagues with 17 extra-base hits, the second-most extra-base hits ever by a Red Sox through 23 team games. Mike Napoli had 18 extra-base hits in the first 23 games of 2013 . . . Righthander Matt Barnes closed out his fourth save of the season Sunday by blowing a 98.4 mph fastball past Mariners outfielder Dylan Moore. It was the hardest pitch Barnes had thrown since he hit 99 mph on the final day of the 2019 season . . . Christian Arroyo is considered day-to-day after X-rays taken on his left hand — drilled by a pitch from Mariners righthander Drew Steckenrider — came back negative Sunday. Outfielder Alex Verdugo, who sat out Sunday’s game after experiencing discomfort in his left hamstring Saturday, will be re-evaluated by the team’s training staff Tuesday, but to date, the issue hasn’t been considered serious enough to require imaging . . . The alternate site rosters of the Red Sox and Mets will hold a pair of scrimmages Tuesday and Wednesday in Brooklyn, overlapping with the two-game series between the major league teams.