Jarren Duran was always fast, but his speed didn’t quite translate to the big leagues in parts of his first two seasons.
In his first two seasons, he had a total of nine steals. This year, however, Duran has already swiped 14 bases in 15 chances. The change is a product of hard work, studying pitchers, and conviction alongside first base coach Kyle Hudson.
“Huddy been on it, dude. We’ve been picking pitchers apart,” Duran said Tuesday before the first game of a three-game set against the visiting Marlins. “We’re picking up on all their cues, what mistakes they make, and taking advantage of it. I know that there’s some guys that are able to just get on and take off. I’d like to do that, but I want to be a better base runner.”
You don’t necessarily have to be the fastest runner to have a knack for stealing bases. It’s all about timing, rhythm, and jumps. Knowing the opponent, as Duran mentioned, is the biggest key. Jackie Bradley Jr., for instance, wasn’t a burner. Nor were Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi — at least not to the level of Duran. Yet the three combined for 68 stolen bases during the 2018 season.
“That group in ‘18, they were really good about that,” said manager Alex Cora. “You gave them something and they took off.”
It’s studying and conviction that makes a base stealer a base stealer. But even if Duran had the studying piece down. The conviction wasn’t necessarily there in the past.
“I bet it was hard last year,” Cora said “Then when you get on base [it’s like], ‘What if I get thrown out?’ But he’s getting on base now at a higher rate. The mere presence at first and the opposition knowing that he’s been running puts pressure on them.”
“If the pitcher has a tendency that you can pick out, then you can take off a couple of seconds earlier, which gives you a head start,” said Duran.
In defense of a star
If there’s anyone Cora believes should be an All-Star, it’s Alex Verdugo.
The right fielder entered Tuesday’s game second in the majors and first in the American League with nine defensive runs saved at his position.
Verdugo had two doubles in three at-bats in the Sox’ 10-1 loss, raising his average to .307 and his OPS to .856. Verdugo, who started the day third in the majors in doubles, now has 26.
“If you look around and you look at WAR and everything and the defensive impact, it’s Alex,” Cora said. “He’s been one of the best defenders in right field.”
The Red Sox reinstated Verdugo from the bereavement list ahead of Tuesday’s series opener. Bobby Dalbec was optioned to Triple A Worcester.
Facial surgery for Houck
Tanner Houck had successful surgery Tuesday for a facial fracture suffered June 16 against the Yankees at Fenway. Kyle Higashioka hit a line drive off Houck’s face, causing the righthander to drop to his knees. The 26-year-old pitcher, nevertheless, walked off under his own power.
A statement by the team Tuesday night said Houck “underwent a successful open reduction and internal fixation of a right orbito-zygomatico-maxillary complex (OZMC) fracture. The procedure was performed by Dr. Branko Bojovic at Mass General Hospital.”
A timeline on Houck’s return is still to be determined. Blue Jays starter Chris Bassitt underwent a similar procedure in 2021 while with the A’s and returned in five weeks.
Paxton good to go
James Paxton (right knee soreness) is on track to make his Friday start. Paxton left Saturday’s contest against the White Sox after just four innings, surrendering a run. He will throw a bullpen session Wednesday. “It’s not anything really serious,” said Paxton. “It’s just something that we need to pay attention to and deal with properly and hopefully they caught it at a point where we can deal with it quickly and move on.” . . . Masataka Yoshida was out Tuesday after being hit with a pitch in the right forearm Sunday. . . John Schreiber (shoulder/lat) and Richard Bleier (shoulder inflammation) both threw bullpen sessions.
Buchholz on the mound
Former Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz threw out the first pitch Tuesday. It was Buchholz first time at Fenway as a retired player. Former Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes, who is now with the Marlins, did not make the trip. Barnes is on the injured list with a hip impingement.