Duvall underwent X-rays at Comerica Park immediately following Sunday’s game and was evaluated by a hand specialist in Boston on Monday, after which the Red Sox released the initial diagnosis.
Following Monday night’s contest, a 1-0 loss to the 10-0 Rays in which the Red Sox missed Duvall’s big bat, manager Alex Cora revealed that the 34-year-old won’t need surgery.
“Just a fracture, that’s it,” said Cora. “No surgery. Just put a cast on it and let it heal, and he’ll be back whenever he’s ready.”
According to a source, by avoiding surgery, there’s a chance Duvall could be back in six to eight weeks. If a surgical procedure had been required, he could have been out for eight to 10 weeks, if not longer.
“It’s great,” said Cora. “We don’t want to go that [surgery] route, of course. I’m glad that this is the worst news for him. He’s going to be back at some point. We just have to be patient, and whenever he’s ready, he’s ready.”
Duvall’s 2022 season ended in July when he underwent surgery to repair a torn left tendon sheath. However, this appears to be a separate injury to a different part of the wrist.
“It’s on the other side [of the wrist],” said Cora. “For everything I hear with the procedure he had last year, nothing [related] happened.”
Perhaps because of struggles at the plate last season in addition to his injury, there was little fanfare when the Sox signed Duvall to a one-year, $7 million contract on Jan. 24.
Instantly, he created excitement this season. In eight games before the injury, Duvall put together a glittering line of .455/.514/1.030 with five doubles, four homers and 14 RBIs. In the second game of the season, he hammered a walk-off two-run homer over the Green Monster in a 9-8 win over the Orioles.
“It’s interesting because a few weeks ago not too many people thought [this injury] would be a blow, but obviously the guy is a good player,” said Cora. “We knew when we signed him he was going to be a good defender and he was going to put up good at-bats. He worked so hard on a few things with [hitting coach] Pete [Fatse] to drive the ball to left field. And now it's a big blow.”
The Red Sox can’t expect to replace Duvall with one player. But here is a look at how they will attempt to do so by committee:
Kiké will see more time in center
For the past two seasons, Kiké Hernández was Boston’s primary center fielder. Following the departure of Xander Bogaerts and the right elbow injury to Trevor Story, Hernández opened 2023 at shortstop. While he again started at short on Monday night, Hernández is going to get some time back in center, the position Duvall had been playing.
“I already talked to Kiké, and versatility comes into play now,” said Cora.
As a right-handed hitter, Hernández is a player who can help replace Duvall’s production from that side of the plate if he can get hot. Hernández ripped 20 homers for Boston in 2021 and had an historic six-game run during that postseason. He went 0-for-3 with one walk and one strikeout in the series opener.
Dalbec gets another chance
With the Sox set to face seven lefties in their next eight games, Bobby Dalbec (recalled from Triple-A Worcester to take Duvall’s roster spot) will get a chance to play. Cora indicated that Dalbec will get more time at the corners than at shortstop, a position he spent Spring Training getting acclimated to. Dalbec ripped 25 homers as a rookie in 2021 but couldn't find a groove last season, a big reason he started this year in the Minors. He hit a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning and finished Monday's game at first base.
Tapia will play more against righties
Raimel Tapia, a veteran left-handed hitter who made the team as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, will get some time in center against right-handed pitchers. He also has speed, something the Red Sox lack as a team. Tapia pinch-hit in the top of the ninth and grounded out to second for the final out of the game.
Refsnyder’s importance grows
Rob Refsnyder got the start in center Monday against Rays lefty Jalen Beeks, and he will be in the lineup a lot this week. The right-handed hitter had a .359 average in 73 plate appearances against lefties last season. Refsnyder went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, but he made four putouts, including a great sliding catch on the warning track in left-center field in the third.