Finally healthy, Story eager to contribute on both ends

March 12th, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox manager Alex Cora was running down a variety of things about his team during his media session on Tuesday morning when he shifted his attention to a player who probably hasn’t been talked about enough entering the 2024 season.

“The shortstop is really good. He's one of the best, if not the best defensive shortstop in the big leagues,” said Cora. “What he did last year in [43] games was eye opening, was outstanding, and he's in a better place right now … his arm is where [it’s] supposed to be.”

In Tuesday afternoon's 8-6 loss to the Cardinals, demonstrated that his bat is also trending in the right direction -- a productive Story instantly becomes one of the best all-around players in the game.

Story mashed his first homer of Spring Training over the replica Green Monster. In his next at-bat, he hammered a ground-rule double to right-center. Story made it a 3-for-3 day when he legged out an infield single in his final plate appearance.

Hitting in the three-hole in Boston’s lineup puts Story behind Rafael Devers and in front of Triston Casas, a pretty ideal spot to be.

“It’s good protection,” Story said. “I like that a lot. I feel like our lineup is really deep and there’s no easy outs and we’re going to grind at-bats. We’ve been pretty good offensively the last couple of years but I feel like we can do a little better. I know that I can be a big part of that.”

Story’s third season with the Red Sox should easily be his best, as long as he stays on the field.

When he signed with the club on March 23, 2022, Story moved to second base because Xander Bogaerts was still patrolling short. While that defensive transition couldn’t have gone any smoother, Story had two significant injuries that limited his season to 94 games.

Story was revved up to become Boston’s starting shortstop in ’23 when Bogaerts left in free agency, only to have his right elbow flare up in the winter while ramping up.

He had an internal brace procedure on his right elbow in January and didn’t suit up for the Red Sox until Aug. 8.

With pitchers across MLB in midseason form and Story just trying to regain his timing, he slashed .203/.250/.316 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 158 at-bats. That isn’t even close to what Story is offensively.

It’s almost like the Red Sox are getting a new player, one they had in name only the last two years.

“I’m excited because I feel like I haven’t put my full self out there in a couple of years, on offense and defense,” Story said. “I really do pride myself on being a complete player. In some ways, it kind of feels like my first year here being fully healthy and ready. I’m excited about that. I’m ready to show it.”

The Red Sox are ready to see it.

“Better and better,” Cora said of Story’s progression at the plate this spring. “One of the things that I really like about the spring is the walks. So that means he's seeing the ball well. Obviously, there's swing and misses and we know that. He’s in a much better place than two years ago and obviously last year.

“I think he's a lot stronger. His mechanics are almost there. His takes are telling me a lot. He’s not rushed into his takes or into his swing. It's a step in the right direction and he's been working hard at it.”

Given that the Red Sox haven’t had the true Trevor Story experience yet, Cora admits it’s hard to project what he will be offensively.

“Not yet. I know he was a home run hitter in Colorado,” said Cora. “Obviously, he’s great running the bases. I would hate to put numbers out there because I don’t want to do that. But if he hits the ball in the air [to] the pull-side [at] Fenway, he’ll have fun this year. We will [also].”

The fun for Story at this point is just being able to play every day. He plans on keeping it that way.

“I feel good. I feel healthy. I feel settled in,” Story said. “I just really feel like myself so I’m excited about that. So personally, we’ll just kind of continue the same thing and continue with the work we’re doing pregame. Just do this thing and try to [stay] healthy.”