SPRINGFIELD — Trevor Story felt his arm was getting stronger toward the end of last season. He thought he was turning the corner, and the timing couldn’t have been better when the Red Sox lost their fixture at shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, to the San Diego Padres, meaning Story could move back to his original position.
But during his ramp up in December, Story began to feel nagging pain in his right throwing elbow, which ultimately required surgery.
“I got this tingly feeling,” Story said Saturday during his media availability at the Red Sox’ Winter Weekend. “Obviously that’s not something that should happen and so I immediately stopped for a bit and thought I would go get it checked out. It ended up being a situation where surgery was a possibility and that’s [the direction] we went.”
Story underwent an internal bracing procedure of his right ulnar collateral ligament. Was it a surprise? Certainly.
“I was surprised because I was feeling good, feeling really good,” Story said. “Injuries aren’t fun, but [getting hurt] while not on the field [competing] is frustrating.”
Story maintains confidence that he will return to action in 2023. The procedure, essentially a modified version of Tommy John that allows players to return quicker, could have Story back on the field sometime near the All-Star break. He was reluctant, however, to put a timetable on his return.
“A lot of that kind of depends on the way we’re progressing and this whole rehab process,” Story said. “But I feel good about that. I feel good about how I’m gonna attack this. The team that we have, all of our [trainers], we’re going to do the best job we can. That’ll be something I’m really looking forward to. We’re gonna do it the right way, though. We’re not going to cut any corners.”
Whenever Story returns to action, he wants it to come at shortstop. With all the unknown surrounding his injury, he made that very clear.
“I’ve always seen myself as [a shortstop],” said Story. “I still know that I can do that and that’s the mentality I take no matter where I play. Whatever happens once we get closer to it, we’ll make that decision then. But yeah, in my mind I’m getting ready for [shortstop].”
Preparing for WBC
The Dominican Republic’s roster in the World Baseball Classic is widely seen as the most stacked in the tournament. Rafael Devers hasn’t had much conversation with the coaching staff on how he might be used. Manny Machado will likely be the starting third baseman. If that’s the case, the DH spot would make the most sense for Devers.
All of that, though, doesn’t matter to the All-Star.
“I’m not trying to focus on that,” Devers said. “I just want to represent my country. That’s the main thing. If they want to put me at third base or DH, I’m not the manager. So whatever they decide.”
Though rosters have not been made official, the Red Sox have 10 players committed to the WBC. With games beginning March 8, those players will have a shortened spring training. Head strength and conditioning coach Kiyoshi Momose and his training staff, alongside manager Alex Cora, are devising a plan for those players so they can remain healthy and be ready for the regular season.
Sox third base coach Carlos Febles is a coach for the Dominican team, which Devers feels is a plus.
“It’s going to help me a ton because in the offseason we always work together,” Devers said. “He’s always there to help push me. With my fielding as well, he pushes me. Having him there is going to help me tremendously.
Houck a ‘full-go’
Be it as a starter or reliever, Tanner Houck said he’s ready for the 2023 season after undergoing season-ending back surgery in September.
“This year, I feel really good with where I’m at,” Houck said. “Like, I didn’t have that shooting pain down my leg anymore after the surgery. It went away right then and there. It was mainly just waiting for the wound to heal itself after that. I’m full-go. No worries. I haven’t had any setbacks.”
Houck has made 20 starts for the Red Sox in 53 appearances. He moved to the bullpen last year out of necessity. Garrett Whitlock, who ultimately moved back to the bullpen, then became a starter.
The Sox told both pitchers to build up as starters this offseason, and if you include them, the Sox have seven pitchers who can start.
Houck hopes he can be a part of the five-man fold.
“I would love to start,” Houck said. “I’ve started my whole life and want to continue to do that, but I’m also willing to step up with whatever the team needs to fill a role.
“I don’t want to be selfish in that way. I’m going to go out there and get as many outs as they want me to get no matter where it is, in the first or eighth inning.”