Jarren Duran’s Sunday was the epitome of a Red Sox team with too many holes to fill at once

Jarren Duran diving and failing to catch a ball in the outfield.
Jarren Duran had a horror show series in the outfield of Kansas City, the ball — sometimes his fault, sometimes not — falling within range, but not in his glove. Ed Zurga/Getty Images


“I’m just learning my craft,” Jarren Duran told reporters Sunday afternoon in Kansas City, following one of the worst defensive games of recent Red Sox memory. “Working each day, coming here and busting my butt and doing what I can do. I have teammates helping me and keeping me positive.”

Positivity is important, and to that end, the Red Sox will not lose a game on Monday and Duran will not have to play center field in front of a crowd. (Losing Dennis Eckersley to retirement might be worse, but we can debate that.)

That Sunday happened on the shores of George Toma’s fountains feels eminently fitting, because like few other stadia, Kauffman has been trouble from the start. The first game the Red Sox ever played there, on May 27, 1973, they had four Hall of Famers in the lineup and Luis Tiant on the mound, and they still lost by 10 runs.


The Sox have played dozens more games there in August than in any other month, inevitably sent there each year to wilt in the misery Ichiro Suzuki immortalized, and they usually do just that despite the Kansas City franchise itself barely being .500 at the place the last 50 years.

This weekend was not worse than 2006, when the Sox were swept on the way to going from first place to eight games out in four weeks. This was not 1978, when the slide from 62-29 to ignominy began with three straight losses to a Royals team that was, to be fair, good — the Yankees would steamroll them in the ALCS.

This was a mediocre team exposed as such by a bad opponent after another positive series against Houston made us think, “Well, maybe?” These Red Sox might still salvage something from this season, baseball repeatedly redesigning its playoff system to reward just such screaming adequacy a little more each time, but such salvage absolutely can’t be expected.

Whatever horrors are buried decades ago now, join with them this weekend’s double feature from Darwinzon Hernandez, who pitched three innings, faced the minimum three in one of them, yet somehow gave up nine runs to 12 batters in the other two.


And, most certainly, Duran. Still regularly described as a guy playing an unnatural position four years after the Red Sox moved him from second base to the outfield, living the baseball nightmare of the ball continuing to find you. Duran made five putouts on Sunday at Kauffman — but was involved in that same number of plays which had me checking the notes that, yes, this is a player with nearly 2,500 innings as a professional center fielder under his belt.

On Michael Massey’s double in the third Sunday, Duran’s route was bad, but it’s reasonable he couldn’t track it down. Nate Eaton’s double in the fifth feels less so, the awkwardness of Duran’s run leading to him being just short on a shot that felt catchable.

Then, the seventh. Losing Nate Eaton’s triple in the sun despite both shades and eyeblack, shying from the wall and missing Kyle Isbel’s triple, and … know what? Needing to dive for MJ Melendez’s shot to center is fine. Just about taking out Tommy Pham an inning earlier can be our fifth.

I don’t know if Pham’s to blame for not more vociferously calling Duran off there. Same as I don’t know whether fans were actually throwing bottle caps at Duran, leading to a scene where Alex Verdugo had to keep him from jawing with the crowd after the two triples.


It’s barely been a year since he came up, spinning the best kind of daydreams about the best days of Jacoby Ellsbury. Now, I’m finding myself relieved his postgame comments didn’t focus on how we just don’t know how hard center field is.

A bad major league player is still, as the latest masterpiece by SB Nation’s Secret Base reminds, better at baseball than you probably are at anything you’ve ever attempted. But this is difficult to watch.

As is the Red Sox being painted in such a corner that they must just continue to hope it gets better.

“He’s our center fielder,” manager Alex Cora told reporters Sunday afternoon. “We trust him. This is a kid that is part of what we’re trying to accomplish. We’re going to keep rolling with him.”

What choice do they have? (We are not accepting Jackie Bradley Jr. at this time, thanks.)

Kutter Crawford’s Sunday start was the 24th by a genuine rookie, with another 16 going to second-year guys (Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck) and/or Austin Davis.

Franchy Cordero has made 41 starts at first. Thirty-one starts at second have been spread around Yolmer Sanchez, Christian Arroyo, Jeter Downs, and Jonathan Araúz.

Duran’s gotten 36 games in center field. Arroyo’s gotten 16 in right, where he’d never previously played. Christian Vázquez made five starts at first.

Individually, that’ll happen over the course of a season. Collectively? That’s damning, injuries or not. It strikes that the only thing this season that hasn’t been a worst-case scenario come to life is that the Red Sox are still just two games below .500.


Watching Jarren Duran do his deer on a frozen pond routine Sunday was not fun in the least. He is — despite his watch-the-inside-the-parker bounce play of weeks earlier — a talented player who could provide a needed boost to a lineup which hasn’t exactly been stuffed with dynamism throughout franchise history.

But he is not ready for center field in the majors right now. Same as Brayan Bello has not been ready to start, his recent injury all that will keep the team from continuing to trot him out down the stretch.

It’s the state of the Red Sox in the waning, warming days of August. Fill the lineup card however possible and hope for the best.

At this point, I’ll settle for anything better than another weekend in Kansas City.


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