February 3, 2023

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Turning the page: Story's slow start a thing of the past

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This story was excerpted from Ian Browne’s Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The beginning of the baseball season can bring out the most irrational thoughts.

This especially happens regarding players who sign with a big-market team for the first time and have the gall to get off to a slow start at the plate.

The career shortstop, who moved to second base when he signed a six-year, $140 million contract with the Red Sox, got off to a brutal start.

This is when the minds of some fans started to wander. Is he the next Carl Crawford? Could he be Pablo Sandoval? Fans are always scarred by the moves that don’t work out, which can cause them to jump to early conclusions with the most recent big acquisition.

Over the last week and change, however, Story has calmed down Red Sox Nation with an eye-popping display of hitting that has turned his meager start into a distant memory.

When Story arrived at Fenway Park to start the club’s last homestand, he was hitting .196 with one homer and a .561 OPS. The hot-take theories started to abound: Story couldn’t survive without the thin air of Colorado. The fan and media pressure had to be getting to him.

But it turns out that Story just needed some time to settle in. And once he did, he became a devastating force, one whose bat clearly plays at Fenway Park.

It all started on May 16, the opener of the last homestand, when Story belted a game-tying homer that soared over the Green Monster and everything else to lead his team to victory over the Astros. Three days later, Story mashed three homers to go with seven RBIs against the Mariners. The next night, he unloaded for a grand slam. In the Sunday finale against Seattle, Story homered again, giving him five in a four-game series against the Mariners, and six for the homestand.

Would leaving the friendly comforts of the Green Monster slow down Story? Apparently not. When the Red Sox started their brief, three-game road trip in Chicago on Tuesday, Story hit yet another homer as part of a four-RBI night.

From May 16 to May 24, Story had 11 hits — seven of them homers — in 31 at-bats. He scored 12 runs, had 18 RBIs and two stolen bases.

During those eight games, the Red Sox went 7-1.

There were some obvious reasons for Story’s slump. He didn’t formally report to Spring Training until March 23. A few days after reporting, he went home to attend the birth of his first child. On the first road trip of the season, he got food poisoning. And also, when you spend your whole career somewhere else, there can be an adjustment period. Story was also learning a new position on defense.

It turns out Story is exactly who the Red Sox thought he was.

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