Tomase: Dynamic Jarren Duran suddenly looks like a goalkeeper originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Duran had every reason to whine when the Red Sox sent him to Triple-A Worcester this spring. He had just hit .333 in Fort Myers while showing game-changing speed and even scored from second place on a sacrifice fly. Duran, a top 35 consensus a year earlier, found himself in limbo, a 25-year-old whose path to regular time was blocked by veteran outfielders Kiké Hernández, Alex Verdugo and Jackie Bradley Jr.
Duran didn’t grumble at Triple-A. He told anyone who would listen that he understood the decision and just wanted to be ready if the Red Sox needed him. He hit .305 with a .910 OPS in 43 games and made a few cameos in Boston, staying just long enough to lead the team in triples before booking a return ticket to Central Mass.
If he had wanted to complain, he certainly could have done so earlier this month when Hernandez was added to the injured list and Red Sox called infielder Jonathan Arauz to replace him. Arauz barely lasted a day before he was assigned to an assignment and joined the Orioles. Duran couldn’t earn a place on the list above that guy?
At this point, Duran could have reasonably wondered if he would eventually become a bait against the August 2 trade deadline. With his 26th birthday coming up in September, it was now time to establish himself as more than a 4-A player.
The real opportunity finally came 10 days ago, and Duran has literally started working on it.
In Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Guardians, Duran hit 4 for 5 with a double and an important RBI. He also made a running flyout in the middle to close it off and left the field with a huge smile on his face and even more confidence that he belongs here.
“He’s been really good – the dynamic player we envisioned,” manager Alex Cora told reporters in Cleveland. “Running the bases, being an athlete, hitting the ball the other way. Not trying too much, and he played well defensively too.”
Drafted in the seventh round in 2018 out of Long Beach State as a quick second baseman, Duran converted to the outfield with the Red Sox and opened eyes by flirting with .400 in his debut at Low-A Greenville before growing to his 6 -foot-2, 215-pound frame. His father, Octavio, is a chiseled weightlifter and Duran clearly inherited those genes.
At one point his physique thought it was producing strength and last year the homeruns came when he scored 16 in Worcester and a few more in a disappointing big league-debut. But Duran’s game was never really about the long ball, and the habits he changed to start launching eventually worked against him.
He arrived in Fort Myers and vowed to return to the line drive hitter his speed allows to play, and he also said he wanted to have more fun, rather than try to keep a low profile like a yes sir, no-lord rookie .
He’s clearly having a good time, hitting .319 with a .862 OPS and perhaps most crucially, no home runs in the major leagues and only six in Worcester. On Saturday, he roped a double the other way from the base of the left field wall, hit two singles through the left, then lined an RBI single through the center past a drawn infield in the ninth.
“This is what we want,” Cora told reporters. “We want a man who can go the other way, hit line drives, put the ball in play and put pressure on the opponent. That’s the best version of him.”
“It was fun running the bases,” he told reporters, including Julian McWilliams of the Boston Globe. “I’ve got coach Rámon Vázquez in my ear who is the best on first base, man, he’s got me all this information there. It’s great.”
Duran added: “I’m having fun, go for the big boys and run the bases like crazy.”
While parts of his game still remain a work in progress – he was thrown into third place for being too aggressive on a ball in the sand on Saturday, and his speed so far should make up for poor reads in the outfield – the overall picture is easy to like. Duran goes to base and makes things happen. The next step is to encounter all the adjustments that the opponent’s pitchers make, presumably in the zone.
Less than two weeks ago we wondered if Duran’s days in Boston were numbered† But when given the chance, he vigorously pleads to stay put.