BRADENTON, Fla. — Is Jarren Duran on the clock, or did time already run out on his case for a spot on the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster?
Duran has rejoined the Red Sox after spending the prior two weeks playing for Team Mexico in the WBC, an experience he described as incredible, with noise and energy that surpassed even what he encountered while traveling with the Sox in the 2021 postseason.
Duran played sparingly in the tournament, going 0 for 5 with two strikeouts and two stolen bases. Upon returning to camp, Duran acknowledged trying to hit the ground at a sprint with just days left before the Sox make roster decisions.
The Sox had been excited about Duran’s swing and all-fields offensive approach prior to his departure for the WBC, and were hoping that he’d be able to build upon that now that he’ll get regular at-bats in the rest of camp.
“He’s a good player,” said manager Alex Cora. “The situation, going to a tournament, not playing, we don’t control that … I know we’re proud of him. He went over there for a reason. He enjoyed it, but now it’s about coming here and just playing the game.”
Duran went 1 for 4 with a single and strikeout on Thursday against the Pirates. He said he wouldn’t get caught up in whether he had enough time to make a convincing case to open the year in the big leagues.
“I just feel like it would add more stress to me trying to think about, ‘Oh, am I going to make it?’ ” said Duran. “The only thing I really can do is go out and play, because at the end of the day, they’re going to make a decision. I don’t have any say in it. All I can do is play.”
Cutting his teeth
Kutter Crawford threw six innings in a Triple A game against the Twins, allowing two runs while striking out six and walking one. Cora said the righthander, who went 3-6 with a 5.47 ERA in 77⅓ big league innings last year, will be in the rotation to start the year, pitching the fourth game of the season.
Crawford’s rotation spot may prove temporary, as Garrett Whitlock could be available by the second turn, with Brayan Bello potentially close behind him.
“There’s people that are going to get healthy, and then we have to make decisions,” said Cora. “We feel like these are the best matchups that we have for now.”
With Crawford pitching in the fourth game against the Pirates, Nick Pivetta — who led the Sox with 33 starts and 179⅔ innings last year while going 10-12 with a 4.56 ERA — will start the fifth game. Cora wanted the durable righthander to pitch behind Tanner Houck and Crawford in order to provide a reliable source of innings.
“It’s not that he was disappointed, but they take pride in [the] 1-5 [spots in the rotation],” said Cora. “[But] there’s one Opening Day and then there’s the other stuff that we have to do, and he’s a guy that can give you a lot of innings … You have to think about the people surrounding him.”
Josh Winckowski, who has a 1.29 ERA this spring after allowing two runs over four innings on Thursday, will open the year as a multi-innings reliever.
Lefthander Joely Rodriguez has improved since suffering a Grade 2 oblique strain on Saturday but remains slated to open the year on the injured list.
Without Rodriguez, the Sox continue to discuss whether to carry a second lefthander (leading candidates are Ryan Sherriff and Oddanier Mosqueda) to pair with Richard Bleier, or a multi-innings reliever such as Kaleb Ort.
“If we had this conversation three years ago, four years ago, [the decision would be], ‘Oh yeah, the lefty,’ ” said Cora, referencing the 13-pitcher roster limit. “But now with the rule, it’s a little bit different.”
Sherriff, a non-roster invitee, acknowledged being “a little disappointed” when reassigned to minor league camp on March 10. But with a scoreless inning Thursday, he’s gone 6⅔ this spring without an earned run with striking out eight and walking none.
“I didn’t know what had happened [when Rodriguez was injured]. My Twitter blew up a little bit, but honestly I didn’t think about it too much,” said Sherriff. “I’m just going about my day and living my life.”
Righthander Wyatt Mills, who’d been in the mix for a multi-innings bullpen role, has been sidelined with right elbow inflammation. The issue is in the flexor, but is muscular rather than ligamentous, and appears minor.
Yorke dives right in
Prospect Nick Yorke made an incredible diving catch from second base on a popup down the right-field line, hopped up, and threw out a runner at first for a double play. While Yorke’s status has been driven chiefly by his offensive potential, he was thrilled to make an impact play in the field.
“No one can just hit in the big leagues,” said Yorke, who went 1 for 3 with a single and strikeout. “You have to have some sort of contribution on defense, as well.”
Let's hear it for Nick Yorke, Nick Yorke, Nick Yorke! pic.twitter.com/FI3MBXXNYA— MLB (@MLB) March 23, 2023
Yorke, a 2020 first-round pick and the top performer in the Sox system in 2021, struggled in 2022, hitting .232/.303/.365 in High-A Greenville. But Cora asked for him to be part of the roster and lineup in Thursday’s game, and felt that request was rewarded.
“He’s a good player. Some people are down on him. Not me,” said Cora. “He’s very calm at the plate, he swings at the right pitches.”
Back in the swing
First baseman Triston Casas, after sitting two games with a sore pinkie, went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles against the Pirates. “Yarrrrrrr!” he didn’t bellow.
Alex Speier can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.