Rafael Devers has decent numbers for the Red Sox this season but Boston has struggled offensively, much to the surprise of everyone. John Bazemore/Associated Press

In preparation for the 2024 season, the Red Sox made plenty of adjustments.

They made upgrading their defense a priority, correctly realizing that any improvement to the pitching staff would be negated if the pitchers weren’t supported by better play behind them. That’s especially true for a staff that doesn’t overpower opposing lineups, but instead relies on weak contact and converting balls in play into outs.

For the first seven weeks, the defense has delivered mixed results. The Red Sox have allowed 34 unearned runs, the most in baseball, and  are 2-13 in games in which they’ve allowed at least one unearned run. Clearly, more work is needed.

And yet, there’s no arguing that some improvement has been realized at several positions. Wilyer Abreu has quickly developed into one of the best right fielders in the game and Jarren Duran has made huge strides in center. A year ago, Duran was a decidedly below-average defender, but this year is second among all outfielders in the big leagues with plus-10 defensive runs saved.

Meanwhile, Tyler O’Neill, who previously won two Gold Gloves for his outfield play with the Cardinals, hasn’t made the same impact here. The expectation is that, in time, he’ll perform as an above-average defender.

For all their planning, the Red Sox probably didn’t expect that they’d struggle so much offensively. Just over a quarter of the way through the season, they rank in the middle of the pack when it comes to runs scored (16th) OPS (11th), batting average (14th).


No doubt, that drop-off is the result of losing Trevor Story (shoulder) in the eighth game of the season and being without first baseman Triston Casas (ribcage) for almost the last month – with at least another month, before he’ll return to the lineup.

Few teams are capable of overcoming such significant in-season losses. That’s even more true for a team in transition, with two rookies (Abreu and Ceddanne Rafaela) as everyday players and a third (Vaughn Grissom) with fewer than 260 big league at-bats to his credit.

Few predicted that the lineup would be this team’s weakness in mid-May. Despite an MLB-best ERA and vastly improved defense since Rafaela moved to shortstop, the Red Sox are struggling to remain above .500.

Since May 1, about a week after Casas went down, the Red Sox have failed to score more than three runs in nine of 14 games. In a recent 18-game stretch in which they never allowed more than five runs in a game, the Red Sox were 9-9.

With Story done for the year and Casas more than a month away, what can the Red Sox do?

A trade for an impact bat would seem unlikely because teams are historically reluctant to make big deals before July. It should be noted that the San Diego Padres recently acquired Luis Arráez, a two-time batting champion, in a deal. So it can be done, even if it’s far from common.


There aren’t any obvious solutions from the minors. At Triple-A Worcester, much of the roster is made up player who belong in Triple-A, none of whom represent meaningful upgrades. Among prospects, Niko Kavadas has been on a heater, and is slashing .310/.454/.670. But Kavadas is a well below-average defender and his alarmingly high strikeout rate (28.4 percent) at the Triple A level suggests that he would struggle in the big leagues.

Marcelo Mayer is mashing for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs now that he’s healthy, but it’s impossible to imagine the organization double-jumping him to the big leagues and bypassing Triple A. The Sox have too much invested in Mayer to sacrifice his development for the sake of a quick injection of offense in Boston.

It would seem, then, any improvement will have to generated from within. Who are the internal candidates who could improve?

• Masataka Yoshida. Yoshida is out with a thumb injury that will not require surgery, but there is no timetable for his return. Yoshida may not be a true thumper, but he is a major league-caliber bat who supplied a .777 OPS last year with 33 doubles. Even a keep-the-line-moving hitter would be an upgrade over what the Red Sox are getting out of journeyman DH options like Garrett Cooper and Dominic Smith.

• Vaughn Grissom. Grissom has long been viewed as an offense-first infielder who’s displayed pop and some speed at the minor league level. The Red Sox have gotten so little out of second base this season – the collective .427 OPS from the second base position is easily the lowest of any MLB team – that it shouldn’t take much to improve the output at the position.

• Rafael Devers. Devers hasn’t been bad, with an .871 OPS and an OPS+ of 143, but he’s hit just six homers, and it may be unreasonable to expect that Devers can carry the team without Story and Casas. Teams know that they can pitch around him. “I bet game-planning is around him,” said Red Sox Manager Alex Cora. “And every team is doing that. Hopefully, he’s not trying to do too much. Where we’re at offensively, you circle him and that’s the guy (you focus on).”


Red Sox Manager Alex Cora, right, argues with umpire Alex Tosi in the ninth inning of the Red Sox’s 7-5 loss to Tampa Bay on Friday night at Fenway Park. Cora wanted the umpires to force Tampa Bay to change pitchers when pitching coach Kyle Snyder attempted to visit the mount with no mound visits remaining. Steven Senne/Associated Press

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL needs to do something to make sure what happened in the ninth inning of Boston’s 7-5 loss to Tampa Bay at Fenway Park on Thursday night doesn’t happen again.

The Red Sox correctly charged that the Tampa Bay Rays had already reached their limit on mound visits after pitching coach Kyle Snyder crossed the base line and approached the mound.

After a lengthy wait period when crew chief Phil Cuzzi conferred with the replay officials in New York, it was determined that the Rays had indeed gone over, and as a consequence, would be forced to change pitchers.

One problem: over the lengthy delay, there was never any announcement to the fans in the ballpark what the issue was. The paying customers were kept in the dark about the nature of the delay and, ultimately, the ruling that resulted in the pitching change.

Cuzzi had a microphone at his disposal; why not inform the fans on hand?

No other sport fails to serve the in-person fans like baseball. In football, hockey and basketball, announcements are made and explanations are provided. What’s MLB’s excuse?

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