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Trevor Story isn’t coming back, so it’s time for Red Sox to man up

In Sports
April 12, 2024

Trevor Story isn’t coming back, so it’s time for Red Sox to man up originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Trevor Story is gone and the Red Sox must accept it. They need to stop kicking rocks – not to mention ground balls – and get on with their season. It’s only the second week of April. It’s time to regroup.

That was certainly Alex Cora’s welcome message after a third straight demoralizing defeat to the Orioles on Thursday, when the Red Sox once again handed the defending division champs extra outs in a crushing 9-4 loss.

The Orioles technically prevailed in the 10th with a two-homer blitzkrieg against reliever Isaiah Campbell, but the game was really lost in the eighth, when Pablo Reyes booted a routine grounder at third and shortstop David Hamilton, who makes you hold your breath every time he touches the ball, danced right past second base to negate a double play.

After playing relatively clean baseball on the West Coast en route to a surprising 7-3 start, the Red Sox unraveled against the Orioles. With Story, their Gold Glove-caliber shortstop, sidelined for the season by a broken bone in his shoulder, the defense collapsed. They made five errors against Baltimore and probably could’ve been charged with at least as many more.

They seem to be feeling sorry for themselves instead of embracing the next-man-up mantra that has allowed other teams to win without injured stars. You get three days to mourn. Now it’s time to produce.

Cora did not dance around the topic after the game.

“We’ve got to turn the page with Trevor,” he said. “He’s not going to be here. That’s the bottom line, and we have to step up. Whoever is playing, they’re capable. They showed it in camp. We played some clean baseball. And now, obviously, the lights and the third deck come into play and every game matters. Every inning matters and we just have to slow the game down and make plays.”

“We’ve got to turn the page with Trevor.” It sounds harsh, coming just two days after Story broke down at his locker over the end of another season. But it’s necessary. There are still parts of the roster producing, particularly a starting rotation with a 1.45 ERA through 13 starts, which is some unexpectedly Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz stuff.

Even if that’s obviously unsustainable, it still points to more talent in the rotation than we believed, and if there’s anything that killed last year’s team, it wasn’t a spotty offense or even atrocious defense (although that didn’t help). It was a decimated starting staff that contributed the fourth-fewest innings in baseball. Give that team a starter like Jordan Montgomery at the trade deadline, and despite the Kiké Hernández-ness of it all, we still might’ve been talking playoffs.

So don’t tell me the season’s over just because Story’s gone. It’s a devastating blow, and he might’ve been the player they could least afford to lose, but 149 games remain. There’s time for the Red Sox to find their way and not just resign themselves to another last-place finish.

The first order of business will be fixing shortstop, and even though they’re so far disinclined to make the move, how much more of Hamilton must we watch before the organization comes around on the idea of shifting electric center fielder Ceddanne Rafaela to his other above-average defensive position?

Chief baseball officer Craig Breslow hinted at a disagreement with Cora on this issue a couple of days ago after announcing Story’s impending surgery.

“Alex and I are having these conversations,” he said. “They’re ongoing. We know the way (Rafaela) can impact the defensive side of the game in multiple positions. I think he will get reps at second base. He will get reps at shortstop. But it’s really difficult to take him out of center field.”

That’s where the emphasis on long-term thinking once again could hurt this year’s team. If all you care about is the future, than Rafaela should stay in center, which is clearly his best position. But he may be your best short-term option at the team’s greatest position of need, and there’s too much of this season left to already be prioritizing the next one.

So it’s time for the Red Sox to stop playing like they’re doomed because they lost their starting shortstop and for someone to step up so 2024 doesn’t end in the second week of April.

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