John Tomase

Red Sox home opener wasn't just disastrous, it hints at disasters to come

"The 2024 squad opened at home by honoring 2004 and playing like it was 2023."

NBC Universal, Inc.

BOSTON -- The good times lasted 10 games, and you'll have to trust me that they were so good (so good, so good), since you were probably asleep.

Remember all the hope the Red Sox brought back from a 7-3 West Coast road trip? It got cold-cocked by reality on Tuesday, when the 2024 squad opened at home by honoring 2004 and playing like it was 2023.

It's hard to pick the most depressingly illustrative moment from the 7-1 loss to the Orioles, but there are plenty of candidates.

Maybe it was shortstop Trevor Story crying at his locker while discussing the looming shoulder surgery that will end his season. Months of work to start earning his $140 million contract, gone in barely a week.

"Don't really understand it," Story said, sighing heavily between sentences. "I know that it's a time for me to lean into my faith."

Maybe it was Jarren Duran kicking his chair in anger and then lapsing into borderline disturbing self-flagellation mode after dropping a fly ball for an error that keyed Baltimore's go-ahead rally.

"I just (bleeping) suck, man. (Bleeping), it's my (bleeping) fault," Duran spat. "If I make that play, we get out of the inning and then none of those other (bleeping) things happen. I just (bleeping) suck."

Or maybe it was the defense, which turned atrocious without Story's stabilizing influence. Rafael Devers booted a grounder. Replacement shortstop David Hamilton let one scoot through his wickets. Second baseman Enmanuel Valdez failed to glove a relay that cost the team another out. Duran's drop came exactly where sun turned to shadows in the left field corner. The Red Sox basically watched reigning Rookie of the Year Gunnar Henderson steal third, leading to the first boos of the season.

"It's been three or four games," said manager Alex Cora. "For us to get to our goal, we need to play good defense."

Or maybe it was the ominous placement of veteran starter Nick Pivetta on the injured list with a right flexor strain in his elbow. Chief baseball officer Craig Breslow suggested the injury was localized and would be short-term, but the path from flexor strain to undesirable surgical outcomes can be short.

"We'll just see how it goes," Pivetta said. "I don't really want to put a timetable on this."

There are two kinds of bad Red Sox teams. The first is so terrible, you might hate-watch them or simply laugh, like 2001 at the end, or the Bobby V. disaster of 2012, or the mercifully brief 2020 pandemic season. The second is different. Story and Duran showed emotion because they care. These Red Sox gave us a glimpse of hope with their hot start. They're not pathetic.

But a team constructed to withstand basically zero adversity received a heaping helping on Tuesday, and we always knew it could go this way. The Red Sox had the makings of a functional roster, but they needed reinforcements that never arrived, unless you count right-hander Lucas Giolito, who didn't even make it through spring training.

That's why we feared the good times wouldn't last. An injury to a single starting pitcher could be devastating, let alone Story at short.

It's hard to overstate his importance, but based on his injury-riddled Red Sox history, if your season hinged on Story's availability, then it probably wasn't going to be your year. Regardless, the Red Sox suddenly have no good answers in the middle infield.

Hamilton might not be a big-leaguer. Romy Gonzalez can play everywhere, which is usually a recipe for not really being able to play anywhere. They're now your shortstop platoon.

Meanwhile, second base isn't much better, between journeyman Pablo Reyes and the unproven Valdez. Maybe youngster Vaughn Grissom will be the answer, but he won't even begin a rehab assignment until this weekend, and then he needs to make up for missing all of spring training.

Put it all together, and it was a thoroughly discouraging opener that hinted at serious challenges to come. If the Red Sox could've somehow stayed healthy all season, maybe there was a path to October. But now, the first week of April already feels like a long time ago.

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