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Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

It Takes All Kinds

The game has moved toward Jarren Duran. Can he meet it in the middle?

Baseball is great because it involves everyone: your super-athletes and your beer-leaguers; your tall guys and short ones; your big-booty pitchers, thick-waisted sluggers and mighty mites; your instant stars and your late bloomers, your mimes and motor mouths. Everyone’s got a roll to fill. Sometimes that role is obvious, like plugging a square peg into a square hole. Sometimes, though, things aren’t what they seem:

This is the Jarren Duran story, in a nutshell. We’ve always known he’s an extremely good athlete — if the square hole represents greatness, the speed piece goes right there — but the rest has been on us as much as it has, admittedly, been on him. His early AAA stats said he was a good all-around hitter, but really... he’s a really fast guy who feasted on subpar pitching. Not the square hole. He looks like he should be a great outfielder, but really... he’s something like the opposite of one. Not the square hole. You’d like him to have matured earlier, but that didn’t happen either, and he has plainly fallen afoul of the fans as a prospect gone bust. Not the square holes.

Duran hasn’t done himself any favors on these fronts, both with his initial refusal to get the vaccine and his vacuous play in the outfield, and a recent slump at AAA made his first appearance for the big-league team on Patriots’ Day a relatively surprising one. The fielding part was as shaky as ever, but there were positive signs that, for at least a day, show how he might fit on this club and in this sport.

For all the questions of “Why Bobby Dalbec?” last week, the simple answer was that the Red Sox were playing a lot of lefties, so they waited until a string of righties were on tap to bring up Duran, who didn’t get his first at-bat until three hours after the game was slated to start, and against not Shohei Ohtani but Tucker Davidson — a lefty. In fact, his first three plate appearances were all against lefties, and he went 1-2 with a double:

And a stolen base:

He struck out in the ninth inning, but otherwise had a debut to remember. It was one game, and it won’t make people forget much, but I’ve always been a believer in Duran’s talent, so I’m going to take a child-sized victory lap. Given how much the game has moved toward players with his skill set — good eye (his OBP was great in Worcester) and great speed — it stands to reason if he continues to cultivate his talent just a little more he and the sport will meet in a happy enough middle. It won’t always be pretty, and there will be a large number of strikeouts, but it might finally be time for our boy to bloom. “Fourth outfielder” doesn’t even feel like a curse for Duran anymore. It would be a blessing.

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