Story debuts as part of 'sick, deep lineup'

April 6th, 2022

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Trevor Story took a quick glance at the lineup card Wednesday when he arrived at JetBlue Park, and that was when he fully grasped what he was about to become a part of.

“I was telling [Xander Bogaerts], I looked at the board and I was like, ‘Man, we have a sick lineup, a deep lineup,’” Story said after playing in his first Grapefruit League game for his new team.

The lineup that Red Sox manager Alex Cora posted for Wednesday’s 10-7 victory over the Braves is likely the same one he will utilize for Opening Day on Friday at Yankee Stadium.

That means that Story will be batting sixth for his new team, at least against right-handers. He will likely bump up to the two-hole against lefties.

By hitting Story sixth, Cora can ease some of the burden early on for the newcomer. And Story will also have more freedom to use his speed -- which the Red Sox don’t have a lot of -- in that portion of the batting order.

“Trevor, he is just a ballplayer,” Cora said. “He’s going to help us -- put it that way. It doesn’t matter whether you hit him sixth, leadoff, second, whatever. He brings it. You can see the intensity.”

Expect the Red Sox to light up the runs column this season. Boston is stacked in the first six spots.

Enrique Hernández is the leadoff man, and he is coming off a terrific second half of last season and a blazing-hot postseason that put him on the map.

“[Hernández] grew up a lot last year in the second half and in the playoffs. You can tell,” Cora said. “He’s a different hitter and has a different sense of confidence if you want to put it that way.”

Rafael Devers, smack in the middle of his prime as he enters the season at 25 years old, is the No. 2 hitter. The lefty slugger launched his fourth homer of Spring Training on Wednesday.

“I’m loving Raffy hitting second,” Cora said. “Raffy, he’s locked in and he’s another player now, too. He’s different. You can see it the way he’s acting, the way he’s talking, the way he’s doing his thing, it’s different.”

Bogaerts, whose consistent excellence is sometimes taken for granted, is in the third spot. J.D. Martinez, the RBI machine, will clean up what should often be crowded basepaths.

Alex Verdugo, who hammers righties, offers the lineup non-stop energy and balance with his lefty bat.

And then you have Story, laying in the weeds as the No. 6 hitter. In his first game action of Spring Training, Story looked comfortable there, producing a walk and an RBI single in his three plate appearances.

The Sox have another dangerous hitter after Story in Bobby Dalbec, who mashed 25 homers even as he battled with consistency as a rookie last season.

Jackie Bradley Jr., working to bounce back from the worst offensive season of his career, has 15 to 20-homer power in him. And veteran catcher Christian Vázquez, who makes a habit of coming through in the clutch, rounds out Cora’s starting nine.

“It’s a good one,” Cora said. “I know there’s a lot of good lineups out there, but ours is up there too.”

Robles still in play for Opening Day
Although righty reliever Hansel Robles won’t arrive at camp until Thursday night, Cora didn’t rule him out for Opening Day.

“I wouldn’t assume anything,” Cora said.

Robles signed a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training on March 19, but his arrival from the Dominican Republic has been delayed by visa issues.

Cora knows him well from the second half of last season, when Robles became a key piece of the bullpen after he was acquired in a trade with the Twins.

The Red Sox are currently lacking in right-handed bullpen depth.

“We’ll see where he’s at,” Cora said. “One thing about him, he’s a workaholic. He gets here hopefully Thursday, and maybe you’ll see him [throw live] on Saturday. He’ll let us know where he’s at physically and stuff-wise.

Houck still fighting mechanics
Tanner Houck’s linescore (4 innings, 5 hits, 1 ER, 0 BBs, 4 K’s) was a big improvement over his first two starts of Spring Training. However, he is still trying to improve his command with just over a week to go in camp. Houck hit three batters and didn’t have any clean innings.

“For me, it’s just going out there and throwing strikes and pounding the zone,” Houck said. “Getting guys 0-2 right away and just staying on the attack.”

The 25-year-old will be the third pitcher out of the gate for the Red Sox this season, when he starts April 10 at Yankee Stadium.

“Tanner, he was OK. I still believe we have to stay in the zone a little bit more,” Cora said. “The hit by pitches, there was a lot of traffic out there. Trying to get that fastball in the zone is very important for us. His stuff plays; there’s a lot of weak contact. Obviously we can’t just can’t give free passes.

“He’s working on his mechanics. His timing is off. His landing and where the arm [follows through] is off. He still has time to work. Hopefully he can get it right.”