How Duran got his groove back offensively

April 27th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne’s Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

When Jarren Duran went through a slump that lasted for months last season, he couldn’t stop tinkering with his swing.

“I made so many swing adjustments just because I was trying to be better for everybody, from the fans to teammates to coaches,” Duran said. “I was just being overdramatic about it.”

Duran, who is now playing like the player the Red Sox envisioned when they initially called him up as a top prospect two years ago, is the first to admit he was in his own head, which isn’t uncommon for a young player struggling to meet expectations.

“I was panicking, because obviously you want to do good for your team and everybody else around you,” Duran said. “It’s just that making dramatic changes in the big leagues isn't the easiest way to do it.”

Then came the offseason, when Duran was able to slow everything down. And in the process of some productive tinkering, he got his groove back.

Duran moved his hands way up in his swing setup. He came to Spring Training hammering the baseball. The World Baseball Classic, during which Duran served as mainly a spectator for Team Mexico, impacted his timing when he returned for the final stretch of camp.

However, Red Sox manager Alex Cora had a message for the center fielder when he was optioned to Triple-A at the end of Spring Training.

“If you go 0-for-20 or 20-for-20, do not change your hands. Stay right there. Use the whole field,” Cora told Duran.

Roughly three weeks later, opportunity knocked for Duran. Adam Duvall broke his left wrist on April 9. Eight days later, once the club was done with a rare stretch of facing almost exclusively left-handed starting pitching, Duran was recalled from Triple-A Worcester, where he hit .195 in 11 games but didn’t change his hands.

Duran has been raking from the day the Red Sox called him up. The left-handed hitter has 12 hits in his first 31 at-bats this season, including five doubles and a grand slam.

His newfound confidence is equally evident on defense, which is notable considering how tentative Duran was at times on defense last year, especially after some misplays got in his head. On Monday night in Baltimore, Duran made a sensational catch in the gap in left-center.

However, more noteworthy for Duran was another recent play, in which he converged with right fielder Alex Verdugo on a fly ball. Either outfielder could have made the catch, but Duran took charge and told Verdugo he was taking it.

“Last year, that ball that was hit to [Verdugo], I would have let him catch it,” Duran said. “But I’m starting to realize that as the center fielder, I have priority. You need to know you’re in charge. I’m not shying away from balls. I always talk about playing like a chicken with his head cut off, just running around and making plays. So I’m just trying to do that and have fun and play loose.”