Notes: Duran homers again; Wong on callup

June 23rd, 2021

Rays phenom Wander Franco made his presence felt in his much-anticipated Major League debut on Tuesday, when he belted a game-tying, three-run homer against Eduardo Rodriguez at Tropicana Field.

Though center fielder doesn’t have the same national appeal at this stage as Franco, Red Sox fans are still itching to see him arrive in the Major Leagues.

That itch only increased when Duran went yard again for Triple-A Worcester on Wednesday, giving him 13 homers in 134 at-bats this season.

Ranked No. 87 among prospects by MLB Pipeline and No. 3 in Boston’s farm system, Duran is slashing .291/.381/.634 in his first Triple-A season.

The numbers make it appear that Duran is ready to be called up. But there is much more that goes into it.

So how will the Red Sox know when the time is right to call up Duran?

“Knowing when it’s the right time to call up any player is some mix of art and science,” said Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. “That’s even more true in a year like this one, coming off of a missing Minor League season and the late start to 2021. Objective information is important in decisions like these, but so are the opinions of the people closest to the situation, and many other factors as well. Nobody has all of the answers, but it’s important to have a complete process.”

The interest in Duran from Boston’s fanbase is heightened by the fact that Red Sox manager Alex Cora hasn’t been able to find a productive leadoff hitter this season.

“In my experience, making decisions with top prospects that are reactive, based on the needs of the big league club, or because you feel you need a jolt, usually gets you in trouble,” Bloom said. “Often, you don’t get the short-term boost you’re looking for, and you might set yourself back over the long haul as well. As much as possible, we need to stay focused on the individual player and when he’s ready not just to survive, but to succeed.”

The Red Sox are very aware of the good things Duran has done this season. But they need to balance the entire picture.

“At the highest level, it takes more than the ability to drive the ball to have success,” Bloom said. “Making sure he has an approach that will withstand the best pitchers in the world dissecting him with the best possible information is critical. And he continues to show progress on that front as the season goes on. Defensively, we know he’s a work in progress, but he’s also shown consistent improvement there.”

One player who has seen Duran up close is catcher , who was recalled from Triple-A on Tuesday.

“I got a front-row seat to the Jarren Duran show,” said Wong. “He’s incredible. He’s fun to watch. He’s a really hard worker. He’s a great clubhouse guy and he wears his heart on his sleeve. You’ve just got to respect that.”

Wong getting first taste of the Majors
Wong, Boston’s No. 16 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is under no illusions that his callup to Boston is permanent. He is filling in while catcher Kevin Plawecki recovers from a left hamstring strain and will try to make the most of this first stint.

In Tuesday’s win, Wong had the thrill of making his MLB debut as a pinch runner in the 11th inning. He wound up scoring the go-ahead run in a 9-5 win for Boston.

“I was just extremely excited,” Wong said of getting his first callup. “It’s kind of what everyone talks about. It’s unreal. You’ve been working for this your whole life and finally coming to the point where you haven’t made it but you’re there. It was really cool. While I’m here, I’m just trying to do whatever they need me to do and do it to the best of my ability.”

Wong spent some time on the Minor League injured list in May with a right hamstring injury, which might have been a contributor to his slow start at the plate for Worcester (.148 average in 61 at-bats).

“I don’t think I’m overwhelmed by the pitching,” said Wong. “I think there’s some timing issues going on -- might be from missing some time, could be just trying to do too much at the plate. It could be a couple of things. I think I’m in a good spot. Just trying to trust the process and keep getting after it.”

Lefties have stepped up
Entering play on Wednesday, the Red Sox bullpen ranked fourth in the American League with a 3.70 ERA. While closer and veteran setup man have performed well in their roles, perhaps not enough has been made of the lefty combo of and .

“For them to step up and do the things they're doing, in any given situation facing lefties, righties, with traffic, with no traffic, they’ve been great,” said Cora. “I think those two guys have given us obviously more options. It helps us to rest some guys in certain situations, rest the other lefty in any given day, flip flop them during a series.

“Bring one earlier, then the other one late and then do it the other way around so the lefties or the hitters from the other team don't see them on back-to-back nights. I do believe those two guys have given us what we envisioned and put us in a great spot.”

Taylor, in particular, has been on fire. In his last 20 appearances dating back to April 30, he hasn’t allowed a run.