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Fresh from Japan, Darren Fenster steps in for shorthanded Red Sox coaching staff

Darren Fenster (3), the Red Sox minor-league outfield and baserunning coordinator, coached Team USA in the Olympics under manager Mike Scioscia (right).Koji Watanabe/Getty

Darren Fenster’s flight from Tokyo landed at 5 a.m. Monday, and the text from the Red Sox was waiting for him as soon as he opened his phone.

With bench coach Will Venable still under quarantine in Canada after testing positive for COVID-19, and first-base coach Tom Goodwin doing the same after being in close contact, the Sox needed some hands to fill in. Fenster, the Red Sox’s minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator, was on the coaching staff for the United States baseball team at the Olympics.

The Red Sox asked him if he could be at Fenway the next morning. Fenster had all of two days to process the Olympic experience before duty called back home.


With no hesitation, he jumped on another flight.

“Anytime the big league team calls you, you answer it,” Fenster said. “Whatever the organization needs you to do to help them fulfill their goals — which is we’re right in the middle of a pennant race here — whatever they need, that’s what I’m here to do right now.”

Fenster was on the field Tuesday helping Sox manager Alex Cora with whatever he needed to prepare for the series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I haven’t even been back 24 hours,” Fenster said. “It probably hasn’t even hit me, really, the entire experience of what we just did, being in the Olympics, but it was absolutely incredible and surreal.”

While Fenster was getting settled in Boston, he learned that the gold medal game was Japan’s most-watched Olympic event. That’s when the magnitude of the US run hit him. He watched Tristan Casas elevate his game on the biggest stage, and Jack Lopez seal a game with his glove to give the US a shot at the gold, though they lost, 2-0, to Japan.


Darren Fenster made the quick transition from the Olympic Games to the AL East division race.Courtesy of Darren Fenster

“The way that we competed with a team that shut down their major league and put together an all-star team — a hit here and hit there, and that game is reversed and we’re going home with a gold medal,” Fenster said. “So to be able to compete on that level, with a group of guys who, for all intents and purposes were complete strangers a month and a half ago, I think just spoke volumes to the saying of playing for something bigger than yourself. It was really an incredible experience to just be a part of that, to see that kind of happened in a really organic way.”

The first thing Cora was hoping to see was the medal. Unfortunately, while Olympic athletes take medals home, coaches do not.

“They never have and I don’t think they ever will,” Fenster said. “But you go for what the experience is, and to be able to wear USA across your chest is something that’s incredibly special.”

Helping the big-league club while it was in a tough spot was also important for Fenster. He was in the dugout along with minor league infield coordinator Andy Fox while Venable and Goodwin continued to quarantine.

“They’re going to help us out throughout the process,” Cora said.

Both Venable and Goodwin are in good shape in Canada, Cora said, and still working with the team from afar.

“They’re doing OK,” he said. “It’s not easy. Texting with them today, they’re doing okay . . . It’s uncomfortable, but it’s where we’re at. The two are relentless working with us. They’re doing their homework, they send new information, they’re on top of everything that is going on here. Hopefully, we can get them back soon here with us.”


Kyle Schwarber upbeat after ‘tiny little setback’

A groin injury last week as he was working his way back from a hamstring injury was frustrating for Kyle Schwarber, but he’s optimistic about making his Red Sox debut in due time.

“There’s a tiny little setback, it’s just kind of lingering,” Schwarber said. “But I feel like that it’ll be sooner rather than later to get back out here, so I’m pretty happy about that.”

Kyle Schwarber, seen here strolling in the outfield before Tuesday's game, is getting closer to game action.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The Sox added Schwarber in a July 29 trade with the Washington Nationals. At the time of the deal, Schwarber had been rehabbing for three weeks. He said he’s as anxious to get on the field as the Sox are to have him in the lineup.

In the meantime, he’s been running the bases, hitting, and working on defense, including (before the groin injury) some work at first base.

“Knowing me, I want to be out here, I want to play baseball, I want to help,” Schwarber said. “I felt like it’s been a long time already since I’ve been back out playing. Yeah, I get antsy, but you also have to respect the training staff and what their opinions are so they’ll be able to check off the boxes completely to make sure that injury doesn’t happen again. That’s kind of the biggest thing.”


Hirokazu Sawamura back in action after elbow scare

After leaving Sunday’s loss to the Blue Jays due to right elbow tightness, reliever Hirokazu Sawamura entered in the sixth inning and worked out of a two-on jam. Cora said he was comfortable with his decision to pull Sawamura given what he saw from the pitcher. “He’s doing OK,” Cora said. “I do believe that on Sunday, we had to do what we had to do. He’s very important to what we’re trying to accomplish. I didn’t like his body language, I didn’t like his command” . . . Darwinzon Hernandez (right oblique strain), Christian Arroyo (left hamstring strain), and Danny Santana (left groin strain) all went through full workouts. Arroyo will take batting practice Wednesday, while Santana tracks pitches in the bullpen. “Now it’s just a matter of getting back to baseball activities and hopefully they can go into a rehab assignment sometime next week,” said Cora . . . In his first action this season, Ryan Brasier pitched a scoreless inning for Triple A Worcester on 10 pitches, following a leadoff walk with a groundout and a double play. Brasier suffered a calf injury in spring training, then a concussion in June when he was struck by a line drive during a simulated game . . . Alex Verdugo is expected to return Wednesday night from paternity leave. He arrived in Los Angeles five minutes before his son, A.J., was born. “One thing’s for sure,” Cora said, “he’s a happy camper” . . . The Sox signed lefthanded pitcher Alex Claudio to a minor league deal and sent him to Worcester. Claudio was released by the Angels on July 30. He was 1-2 with a 5.51 ERA and one save in 41 relief appearances for the Angels this season . . . Right-handed pitcher Marcus Walden, who had spent the season with Worcester, was released Sunday . . . New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner, who shone with five shutouts in the Americans’ victory in the Gold Cup, threw out the first pitch.


Julian Benbow can be reached at julian.benbow@globe.com.