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Red Sox’ Trevor Story has tapped into something at the plate

Story delivers an RBI-double in Monday's loss to the Rays.Scott Audette/Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Trevor Story has ditched the leg kick and employed a toe tap at the dish. Prior to going on the injured list, the Red Sox second baseman held his leg in the air when the pitcher was about to release the ball. When the pitcher released the ball, that’s when Story would get his front foot down.

The toe tap, though, has allowed Story to stay more balanced. If you leave your lead leg isolated, dangling in the air, it leaves little margin for error. Everything has to be in synch for it to work. One little mistake can throw off the entire at-bat.

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“I just wanted to feel a little more balanced,” Story said before the 4-3 loss to the Rays Monday. “I wanted to use the ground a little bit more. I think it’s been nice to just kind of feel that control.

“It’s really similar to what I did in the past. I think the difference is that I’m tapping the ground now.”

When Story was called up by the Rockies back in 2016, he utilized a version of what he’s doing now. While he still dangled his front leg, the movements weren’t as exaggerated.

He went back to the 2016 version of himself, he said, adding the toe tap. Now, after he taps his foot on his initial load, his next movement is forward with a slight lift of the foot before hitting the ground upon contact.

“I just want to use the ground a little better,” Story said. “It’s something I’ve always done in drill work, playing with it. It wasn’t something super foreign to me, but taking it into the game just took a little bit of courage.”

Right against lefties

During spring training, Alex Verdugo acknowledged that his struggles against lefties in 2021 became mental. He listened to some of the outside noise. The Sox sitting him sometimes when a lefty was on the mound didn’t help either.

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Verdugo has never really had trouble against lefthanders. He hit .327 against them in 2019, followed by .320 in 2020. Last year, however, he hit just .228, compared with .321 against righties.

Verdugo vowed that 2021 was just an anomaly.

Verdugo celebrates with a fan after his first-inning homer Monday.Scott Audette/Associated Press

By the start of September, that had proven to be true. The outfielder came into Monday batting .273 against lefthanders compared with .286 against righties.

“I still feel like my numbers should be better, in a sense,” Verdugo said. “Like, I had the first two months where I felt like I was setting the bar good, but I just wasn’t getting any results for it, falling into a [expletive] pattern. Since June I’ve been making up for a lot of [expletive].”

Lefties attacked Verdugo on the inner half with sinkers last year. He began pulling off those pitches, resulting in weak ground outs to the right side. While Verdugo can still fall into those patterns on occasion, he can notice it quicker and make the adjustment.

“He will always make contact,” manager Alex Cora said. “That’s something that we know, but it was a lot of weak contact last year against lefties. A lot of ground balls to the pull side this year.

“This year, he’s been able to take walks and hit the fastball up the middle and stay away from those pitches [low and in]. He’s been solid.”

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Pivetta on track

Nick Pivetta (left calf contusion) threw a bullpen Monday. He’s on target to make his next start Wednesday, barring any surprise setback … Nate Eovaldi (shoulder inflammation) is progressing and will throw another bullpen this week before the team decides what the next steps will be. Cora said he still wants Eovaldi to throw in a rehab game before rejoining the team … J.D. Martinez was out of Monday’s lineup with back tightness. The Red Sox hope he can play Tuesday …The Red Sox reinstated righthander Zack Kelly from the paternity list. To make room, Josh Winckowski was optioned to Triple A Worcester ... Franchy Cordero exited the game Monday in the bottom of the fifth inning with a right leg injury. With one out and the frame, the Rays’ Randy Arozarena steered an eventual RBI double off the left field wall. Cordero’s right knee banged into the wall and he immediately fell. Cordero put minimum weight on that leg and was carted off the field with what the team called a right ankle sprain.


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