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Jarren Duran having trouble centering himself for Red Sox

Jarren Duran dove unsuccessfully for an Anthony Rizzo RBI double during New York's visit to Fenway Park last weekend, a function of Duran getting a bad break on the ball and taking a bad route to it as well.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

NEW YORK — Jarren Duran is taking his bruises again. Both in the field and at the dish.

Duran, who came up at the start of last month in place of injured center fielder Kiké Hernández, has struggled to find his footing at the position with reads off the bat and on some of his routes.

“Sometimes guys topspin balls. Sometimes they backspin balls,” Duran said before Friday’s 5-4, 11-inning victory over the Yankees. “A lot of people don’t see that because they’re just seeing on the outskirts, and they don’t realize what the ball is doing in the air. It’s easy for them to criticize.


“But it’s just about repetitions and noticing the flight of the ball.”

Duran, who didn’t start Friday, is minus-5 defensive runs saved, tied for fifth-worst among all center fielders despite playing just 187 innings there. His performance led the Sox to put him in right field at Tropicana Field on Thursday and put Jackie Bradley Jr. — a far superior defender — in center.

“He’s been really good to his right. He’s struggled a little bit to his left,” manager Alex Cora said of Duran. “I think decision making, it’s been better compared to last year. So you know, he’s been OK and it’s a work in progress.”

Duran started hot at the plate, hitting .333/.385/.479 in 12 games in June, but is batting just .213 in July. In his last seven games, Duran is 2 for 22 (.091) with 10 strikeouts.

“He’s just late on the fastball,” Cora said. “They’re using more four-seamers in the last two weeks. Every team has their philosophy, and we’re going through that stretch that there’s a lot of four-seamers in the zone and he’s been late.”

Garrett Whitlock returns

Garrett Whitlock (right hip inflammation) was reinstated from the injured list, and immediately reminded why he’s a difference maker in the bullpen, throwing two perfect innings to hold a 4-3 lead into the ninth.


“It’s always rough being on the sidelines, not knowing you can’t help or anything like that,” he said before Friday’s win. “So I’m just ready to get back at it.”

After a 4.15 ERA in nine starts and 39 innings, Whitlock — who last pitched June 9 and went on the injured list the next day — returned to the bullpen not due to his performance as a starter, but because he’s more valuable as a reliever on a team that has blown leads in 21 of its first 43 losses.

It blew more both before Whitlock entered in the seventh and after he departed following the eighth, but right from his return he added length to a back end that certainly needs it, joining John Schreiber (who preceded him with 1⅔ innings, pitching for a second straight night) and Tanner Houck (who followed him and worked two critical innings, even while blowing his first save).

“I mean, obviously, everyone knows the talent that’s there,” said Houck. “Everyone sees the pitch mix is elite as well. Having him in there’s going to be obviously a great help and just a great addition to guys that we already have.”

Lefthander Matt Strahm went on the injured list, retroactive to Wednesday, with a left wrist contusion.

Trevor Story on Saturday?

Trevor Story (right hand contusion) took infield practice. The Sox are hoping he can play Saturday . . . Hernández (right hip flexor strain) received a platelet-rich plasma injection. The hope is that it will relieve the pain in the area and that he can ramp up baseball activity soon. “He’s seen a lot of doctors and all that stuff,” Cora said. “We’ll see how he reacts and hopefully he can be with us sooner rather than later” . . . Righthander Phillips Valdez was optioned to Triple A Worcester.


Julian McWilliams can be reached at julian.mcwilliams@globe.com. Follow him @byJulianMack.