By all accounts Jarren Duran had a fantastic season. The 27-year-old outfielder broke out as an impact player after two failed big league call-ups and established himself as a key piece of the Red Sox long-term puzzle.
Still, seeing it end so abruptly due to injury left a sour taste in Duran’s mouth.
“It’s tough but I feel more terrible about myself for getting hurt and not being able to do anything to help the team,” Duran said. “I know nobody is disappointed in me but I’m disappointed in myself for getting hurt.”
Duran suffered a season-ending toe injury on Aug. 20 when he scaled the Yankee Stadium wall attempting to make a catch. He underwent surgery on his severely sprained left big toe 10 days later in Charlotte, N.C., and Friday he was back in the Red Sox clubhouse for the first time since the injury.
Speaking to reporters, Duran said it’s been difficult dealing with the injury, but despite being stuck on crutches unable to do much, he’s trying his best to stay in shape.
“I’m working out my right leg, so hopefully my left leg will catch up,” Duran said. “I’ve been able to do upper body and stuff and stay in shape and make sure I don’t wither away. Just making sure I get all the calories as I can and stuff my face as much as I can.”
Prior to his injury Duran was batting .295 with eight home runs, 40 RBI, 34 doubles 24 stolen bases and an .828 OPS, all career highs by a wide margin. He compiled 2.2 wins above replacement in 102 games, good for fifth on the team among position players, and had made significant strives defensively in center field.
Most encouragingly, Duran fought his way through several slumps without allowing things to spiral, something he couldn’t do his first two years in the majors.
“I was able to keep a positive mindset and work through some things,” Duran said. “I came in, I did good, I struggled, fought out of it and did good, then I struggled a little bit and in that Yankees series I thought I was starting to do a little better and kind of do the uptick. But it was good, you hit those waves and I was able to fight through them and get through them.”
For all he accomplished, Duran said he doesn’t feel like he has a spot on next year’s team locked up and is in no way satisfied by his performance.
“You have to go in like I have to earn my spot every time,” Duran said. “That’s just my mentality is I’ve got to earn my creed here, just because I had one good year? That’s nothing, guys have been doing this for years and I can’t go in thinking oh I did good, I deserve a spot. I’m going to keep working my butt off like I don’t have a spot.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora said he appreciates that approach and believes it’s the right mindset. He also praised his outfielder for the strides he’s made.
“He’s important for us,” Cora said. “There’s a reason he was still in the organization when the season started, there was a reason we were patient, there was a reason he got called up right away when (Adam Duvall) went down.”
Duran is expected to go from crutches to a walking boot sometime within the next week, and he’s confident he’ll be back to 100% by the start of spring training. Though he acknowledged some anxiety over potentially losing his game-changing speed, his doctor, Robert Anderson, is regarded as one of the best in the world in his field and has assured Duran he’ll be back to his old self before long.
“They told me he did (Patrick) Mahomes’ toe surgery when had turf toe, and he came back and won a Super Bowl,” Duran said. “They said he’s like the best, one of our trainers calls him Foot Jesus. So I had a lot of hope.”
Houck a nominee
Every season each club nominates one of its players for the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given to a player who bests represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement. MLB considers the award its most prestigious individual honor.
This year’s Red Sox nominee is right-hander Tanner Houck, the club announced Friday.
Since joining the Red Sox Houck has been a vocal supporter of adoption and child welfare causes. Inspired by his adopted sister, Houck’s “Pitch for Adoption” initiative aims to raise money to help place children between the ages of 6-18 who have experienced abuse or neglect into loving environments and eventually obtain a permanent home.
He has also developed a relationship with the Home for Little Wanderers, the oldest U.S. child welfare agency in the country, and according to the Red Sox “he has been a clubhouse leader, encouraging teammates and coaching staff to join him on visits to non-profit organizations across the city of Boston.”
Houck will be honored during a pregame ceremony at Fenway Park on Friday, Sept. 22. The league-wide winner will be determined by a panel including MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, representatives from MLB-affiliated networks, MLB.com, and Clemente’s three children. There will also be a fan vote, with the winner counting as one vote among the panel. That vote will run through Oct. 1, and fans can place their ballots online at mlb.com/clemente21.
Verdugo back in lineup
Alex Verdugo was back in the lineup Friday after missing the last three games with left hamstring tightness. The outfielder left Sunday’s game in Kansas City after pulling up cutting off a line drive in the right field gap and sat out the subsequent series in Tampa Bay.
Right-hander Corey Kluber (right shoulder inflammation) was originally scheduled to make a rehab start for Worcester on Friday but had it pushed back to Saturday due to travel issues. Shortstop Pablo Reyes (left elbow inflammation) began his rehab assignment for the WooSox on Friday as planned.