In a Boston outfield that lacks an established star, one player who could make a big impact is Jarren Duran.
There was a point last season when the emergence of the speedy left-handed hitter was one of the best stories on the Red Sox.
But then came an August slump, and an unfortunate left toe injury that required season-ending surgery. Duran hurt his toe climbing the wall at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 20, and the Red Sox didn’t look the same offensively for the rest of the season.
The slump and the injury left a sour taste in Duran’s mouth heading into the offseason. But the 27-year-old is looking forward these days, and he could be primed to become the true leadoff hitter the Red Sox don’t really have otherwise.
“The offseason is great,” Duran said recently at the team’s Winter Weekend event. “I'm healthy, I'm full go. I've been sprinting, lifting, doing sleds. I feel great.”
With Justin Turner departing for the Blue Jays as a free agent, Masataka Yoshida is expected to spend a lot more time in the designated hitter role than he did last season.
That could open up more of an opportunity for Duran, who will vie for time in the outfield along with two other young players in Wilyer Abreu and Ceddanne Rafaela, and also offseason acquisition Tyler O’Neill. Rob Refsnyder, whose strength is hitting left-handed pitching, is also back in the fold.
It is still to be determined how manager Alex Cora aligns those outfielders, meaning there should be some good competition during Spring Training.
In 2023, Duran played 557 innings in center field and 173 innings in left.
Though Duran made notable improvements in center last season after some glaring mishaps in 2022, there are some in the organization who feel his best position could be left field.
“I don’t know. I’m just going to go in and just compete, play my hardest,” Duran said. “It's all I can control. Wherever they want to put me, I'm going to be ready for them.”
Duran has game-changing speed, and he had the unofficial team lead (by a lot) last season for singles that he stretched into doubles.
Oftentimes, Duran would cause a rushed outfielder to make a poor throw to second.
In 332 at-bats, Duran had a batting line of .295/.346/.482 with 34 doubles, two triples, eight homers and 40 RBIs. Duran stole 24 bases while only getting caught twice.
“I'm excited," Duran said. "I had a good season last year. I'm my harshest critic, so I'm never satisfied with what I did. And I missed that time towards the end. I’m just going to push myself to be hungry. I missed time with the guys, and that hurt, so I’ve just got to come out and just do my thing.”
Though Duran’s spot on the roster is all but guaranteed -- a far cry from a year ago -- he refuses to look at it that way.
“I think I have the same mindset [as last year],” Duran said. “Nothing's given. I'm going to go in there like I don't have a spot, because you never know. It’s baseball. Things happen. So I'm just gonna go in there, work hard and have fun, hang out with the guys. It’s always the mindset I’m going with because nothing's guaranteed. So you’ve got to go in there and compete.”