Red Sox manager Alex Cora announces Jarren Duran as the team’s primary leadoff

By Nina Campanello

While most Red Sox position players have not yet reported for Spring Training, manager Alex Cora is still finalizing this year’s lineup. Cora said speedy outfielder Jarren Duran will be the team’s primary leadoff man. This is assuming Duran stays healthy and is not traded before the season starts, as he has been rumored to be in recent weeks. 

For most of the 2023 season, Alex Verdugo was Boston’s leadoff man, hitting 79 times. Duran was just behind Verdugo in starts as the first batter, leading off 35 games. Verdugo was traded to the Yankees following the conclusion of the 2023 season, so he is no longer an option for the Sox’s starting batter.

Between June 8 and Aug. 9, Duran hit .351 with five home runs, 17 doubles, and a .933 OPS. Duran makes a good leadoff as a contact hitter who is fast and talented when it comes to stealing bases. Duran had 24 steals on 26 attempts in 2023, solidifying himself as a strong offensive player. 

“When Jarren was leadoff guy for us, we were probably one of the best offenses in the big leagues,” Cora said. Duran was an essential player in leading the Sox to their eight-game win streak in June and July of the 2023 season. 

From July 2 to Aug. 4, Duran hit .388 with a 1.135 OPS and 11 doubles, ranking third in baseball in average, slugging, OPS and doubles. His season ended early on Aug. 20 when he suffered a toe injury trying to scale a wall at Yankee Stadium. 

It is difficult to tell who will start on the days that Duran does not play as the leadoff hitter. 

“As of now, for me, if Jarren is healthy, he’s our leadoff guy,” Cora said. Duran has made a full recovery since his injury at the end of the 2023 season and is in Florida for Spring Training. 

Players Rob Refsnyder, Ceddanne Rafaela and Wilyer Abreu all led off at different times last year, and Trevor Story led 15 games in 2022. Rafaela, Abreu and Refsnyder also join Duran in the outfield, along with newcomer Tyler O’Neill.

“We know [Duran] can play center. He made some strides last year,” Cora said. “It all depends on where we go. He can play center, and he can play left.”