Duran's stolen base feat a first in Red Sox history

April 2nd, 2024

OAKLAND -- After ’s latest baserunning clinic earned him a milestone on Monday night at the Oakland Coliseum, Tanner Houck referred to his teammate as a “menace.”

You won’t get any arguments from opposing pitchers and fielders, as Duran is all too happy to torment them when he is roaming the basepaths.

By swiping three bases to bring his total for the season to five while leading the Red Sox to a 9-0 rout of the Athletics, Duran became the first player in club history to make that many steals in the first five games of a season.

And he completed the feat on the basepaths where all-time stolen base king Rickey Henderson did much of the damage during his Hall of Fame career.

Does Duran agree with the menace label winning pitcher Houck (six innings, three hits, no walks, 10 strikeouts) bestowed on him?

“Yeah, I’d like to think so,” Duran said. “Every time I get on the bases, I’m looking to cause havoc, [whether it is to] run in guys’ faces, make guys fumble the ball while running down the line, and stuff like that. So I guess that’s a good thing to call me.”

The list of Sox players who stole four bases in the season’s first five games is an eclectic one to say the least, including Tommy Dowd (1901), Harry Lord (1909), Tris Speaker (1915), Harry Hooper (1920), Johnny Watwood (1932), Jerry Remy (1978) and Otis Nixon (1994).

The three-steal performance -- the second of his career -- was more satisfying to Duran because it occurred on a night he found his hitting stroke. After going 2-for-16 in the season-opening, four-game series in Seattle, Duran topped that total in the first three innings on Monday, belting three hits over that span and swiftly following each knock with a stolen base.

"Obviously, the hits are nice to get," Duran said. "I feel like I've been hitting the ball really hard, just right at people and I feel like I'm right there. I'm not trying to get out ahead of myself, like, 'I want the hit, I want the hit.' I'm just trusting the process right now and keep hitting the ball hard and hopefully the game rewards me and gives me those knocks when I hit the ball hard. Just trying to have those quality at-bats."

The 27-year-old is coming into his own and could do special things at the top of the Boston batting order this season if he stays healthy. Duran was well on his way last season, hitting .295 with an .828 OPS and stealing 24 bases in 26 attempts over 102 games. But he lost the final six weeks of '23 when he had to undergo surgery to repair turf toe on his left foot.

Clearly, Duran hasn't lost any speed from the surgery. And the scary thing for opponents is that he's still gaining knowledge.

"I think last year he was very efficient stealing bases but he was just running," said Red Sox first base coach/baserunning instructor Kyle Hudson. "He was using his speed and athleticism. This year, he's seeing some of the keys and the tells that are gonna allow him to steal even more bases. Maybe even off guys that are a little bit lower times [to the plate], but they give you something to maybe up that time.

"So I think that's kind of a transition that you're seeing right now. It's not just pure speed and athleticism right now. It's the understanding of what pitchers are doing and he's taking advantage of it."

One of the first decisions Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced at Spring Training was that Duran would be his leadoff hitter this season.

The left-handed hitter is making that look like a no-brainer.

"We're gonna push the envelope as a group, and he's the leader," Cora said. "He did a good job going the other way, stealing bases, putting pressure on the opposition."

While Duran was in the process of his personal track meet in those first three innings, the A's made five errors. Unsurprisingly, two of those defensive gaffes took place while Duran was in motion.

"I've been told since I was in college that the team that makes the least amount of errors usually wins the game, so I'm just trying to cause problems and make them make errors," Duran said. "And we just have to capitalize on the mistakes, which we did tonight and it was awesome to see."