Jarren Duran is expected to be in center field Monday night for the Boston Red Sox when they play the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif., but it wasn't such a sure thing not long ago.
Despite a decent spring training (6-for-18), Duran did not make the team to start the season. And he was hitting just .195 at Triple-A Worcester when the Red Sox decided to call him up on April 17.
But he has played in every game since, starting all but two, and has earned his keep. He's hitting .330 with three homers, 19 RBIs, seven stolen bases and a .917 OPS in 31 games.
It's a complete turnaround for the former seventh-round pick out of Long Beach State -- struggles on the field in recent years resulted in mental health issues that Duran has confronted and managed.
"Oh, he's great," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "For everything that he has talked about, and he's been very open about it, you care about him, not only on the field, but off the field. This kid, he went to Puerto Rico in the middle of the pandemic just to keep working on his craft. We were able to connect and I'm very proud of him."
The Red Sox are hoping to have third baseman Justin Turner back in the lineup Monday after he had to leave Friday's game against the San Diego Padres because of soreness in his left knee.
It couldn't have come at a worse time for Turner, who is having a successful May after struggling somewhat in April. He hit .250 with two homers and eight RBIs in April, but is hitting .316 with three homers and nine RBIs this month.
Right-hander Tanner Houck (3-3, 5.48 ERA) will make his ninth start of the season for the Red Sox. He is 1-1 with a 9.72 ERA in three career games (one start) against the Angels.
The Angels are expected to give Jaime Barria (1-1, 1.96) his first start of the season on Monday. He is 0-3 with a 4.73 ERA in four career meetings (two starts) against the Red Sox.
The Angels continue to be impressed with shortstop Zach Neto, who was the 13th overall pick in last year's MLB draft but has already ascended to the major league level. He went 1-for-3 with a walk in Sunday's 4-2 win over the Twins and is hitting .250 overall, but his primary value has come on the defensive side.
He made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch of a pop fly running from his shortstop position into left field last Wednesday against the Baltimore Orioles, drawing comparisons to Ozzie Smith. Neto, though, remains humble.
"I'm doing pretty good, just holding my own," Neto said. "I'm doing anything I can. Putting my body in places I've never put it before. Just trying to do anything I can to keep the ball in the infield, make plays and anything I can do to get outs for the pitchers."
--Field Level Media