Prospect Duran impresses in Fenway debut

July 21st, 2020

BOSTON -- How fast will speedy Red Sox prospect Jarren Duran adapt to the challenge of playing center field at Fenway Park?

Judging by the way Duran roamed it in Monday night’s intrasquad game, he will probably pick it up about as fast as he runs the bases.

Duran, Boston’s No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was summoned from the Red Sox alternate training site in Pawtucket, R.I., to play at Fenway Park on a night manager Ron Roenicke wanted to rest nearly all of his regulars.

Jeter Downs, the team’s top prospect, also made the trip, as did first baseman Josh Ockimey. But nobody took advantage of the one-day callup more than Duran, a 23-year-old out of Long Beach State.

The left-handed hitter clocked a double to center, another double to left and made two dazzling catches in center to help Red Sox left-hander Martín Pérez. It was an impressive performance, considering Duran hadn’t played in a competitive game since Spring Training was shut down four months ago. How was he able to regain his feel so fast?

“Probably just because I wasn’t really thinking. I was like, 'I missed baseball so much, I’m just happy to be here,'” Duran said. “It was an honor that they asked me to come play today. Just an intrasquad, but it means a lot to me that they asked me to come play for them. I was just enjoying it. I wasn’t thinking too much. I was just going out there, having fun playing baseball again.”

In his brief return to the team, Duran turned heads, much like he did before Spring Training was shut down on March 12.

“He’s really good, man. I love how he plays baseball, and I love how he runs the bases,” Pérez said. “So he’s got amazing talent and a good future with us here. So his time is coming, and hopefully, I’ll be here to enjoy it when we give him a chance to play at the big league level.”

It is open-ended when that time might be. It could be next season, if Jackie Bradley Jr. leaves as a free agent. It could be at some point this season, if a need arises in Boston’s outfield.

On Monday, Duran wasn’t thinking about any of that. He was just relishing in the pure joy of playing at Fenway Park.

“It was surreal,” Duran said. “I couldn’t stop looking around when I was in the outfield. I had to pay attention sometimes, because I was just looking around, realizing I’m playing at Fenway.”

If Duran was in awe of his environment, he didn’t look it by his actions on the field.

Keep in mind that Duran didn’t even report to Summer Camp until Friday because the Red Sox waited to make most of their top prospects part of their 60-man player pool until they opened up their alternate training site in Pawtucket.

“Yeah, how do you do that? You sit out for 3 1/2 months, and then you come back right where you left off,” Roenicke said. “He’s an exciting player. We see his speed and the way he chases balls down in the outfield, and the double he hit, how fast he got to second. He’s explosive, and we just hope all those tools continue to develop and he should be a really exciting player.”

During baseball’s hiatus, Duran went back to his roots and got his work done at Long Beach State.

“I didn’t see any live pitching. I’d go hit at my college, Long Beach State, every so often, until the Angels moved their team over there. And then they kicked me out,” Duran said. “I was just working in the cage, trying to stay ready just in case.”

The fact that there will be no Minor League season in 2020 could be an impediment for a top prospect. But Duran vows not to use that as an excuse.

“It’s obviously going to be tough, because you know you’re not going to have the resources like you usually do, but I think it really just depends on how bad you want it,” Duran said. “We have enough to get better. If you want to work hard, you’re going to go in every day pushing yourself to get better every day. I think it really depends on how bad you want it.”

As Duran hopped on the bus back to Pawtucket after Monday’s game, it was fair to wonder what kind of excitement he will create in his return to Fenway Park, and when that might be. Duran stole 46 bases last season and has 802 at-bats in the Minors, and the highest he’s reached is Double-A, playing 82 games for Portland last season.

“I’d say he’s a ways off,” Roenicke said. “But because of his talent, if you put it together, there’s no reason why he can’t come quick. He does so many things well that you never know. It could take a while, but he could figure it out. And if he figures it out, he’s going to be some kind of player.”