NEW YORK — If rookie outfielder Jarren Duran proves to be as good as everyone in the organization believes he will be, his debut against the Yankees on Thursday night might have been a memorable game in Red Sox history.
But as manager Alex Cora was discussing the high-profile addition to his lineup on a Zoom session with reporters, he was distracted by a text message.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on right now,” Cora said after taking a quick glance.
Major League Baseball announced 16 minutes later the game had been postponed by an outbreak of COVID-19 among the Yankees.
So instead of playing center field and batting seventh at Yankee Stadium with his parents, his brother, his girlfriend and two uncles watching, Duran took batting practice with his new teammates and went back to the team hotel.
“I still don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Duran said before the game was postponed. “Everybody keeps telling me you seem a little too calm for being called up.”
Duran said he expected that to change once he saw those Yankees pinstripes across the field. But it never happened.
The 24-year-old Duran has well above-average speed, surprising power — he hit 15 home runs in 219 plate appearances for Worcester — and a mature sense of how best to use his skills to change the game.
“I’m just trying to keep it rolling,” Duran said. “They’re killing it right now. I’m just hoping to sneak in there and be a little boost of energy at moments when they need me.”
The Sox want more than that.
“This kid, he brings energy on a daily basis. We saw it in spring training, the way he went about it,” Cora said. “We’ve been talking about Jarren for a while as an organization.”
Duran, a lefthanded hitter, actually hit better against lefties in Triple A. But those aren’t major league lefties and the Sox plan to protect him, at least for now.
“I had no idea I hit lefties better,” Duran said. “That’s news to me.”
There will be no reins on Duran otherwise. Cora said Duran will play all three outfield spots to keep his bat and speed in the lineup.
“We can’t predict the future. But the thought process is for him to stick here,” Cora said.
There is some risk in that equation. Kiké Hernández, an excellent defensive center fielder, will now play more second base with Duran on the roster.
Duran, who was drafted as a second baseman out of Long Beach State, is still learning the outfield. Figuring out the tricky angles at Fenway Park in the middle of a pennant race won’t be easy.
Christian Arroyo, who has had a breakthrough season at the plate, will lose some at-bats against righthanders. He started working out at first base on Friday.
So now there’s more pressure on left fielder Alex Verdugo, whose offensive numbers have dropped off sharply after last season. The same is true for first baseman Bobby Dalbec.
That’s a good thing. Competition often produces results.
Assistant GM Eddie Romero told me Duran wasn’t called up because the Sox lost four of five games before the break. They were ready to make the move regardless.
“It was all about making sure his timing was right, that he was in a good spot and 100 percent healthy,” Romero said.
Still, Duran’s presence should give the Sox a jolt as they play 18 consecutive games against division opponents coming out of the break.
“I can’t wait for him to hit a routine groundball and see how close — or how safe — he’s going to be at first base,” Cora said. “And he will do that.”
In time, it could be akin to the lift Jacoby Ellsbury gave the Red Sox in 2007. He made his debut on June 30 that season and gave the Sox 31 extra-base hits and 22 stolen bases over the remainder of the season.
Ellsbury wasn’t in the lineup when the playoffs started that season but started every game of the World Series, going 7 of 16 and scoring four runs.
We’re a long way away from the World Series. For now, Duran is still waiting for his first game.