After a dramatic (and very controversial) walk-off grand slam on Monday night, the Boston Red Sox are trying to keep the good vibes and their AL Wild Card push going — and they’ll be getting some major reinforcements to that end on Tuesday. Manager Alex Cora confirmed to reporters that All-Star shortstop Trevor Story is set to make his season debut tonight, some seven months after undergoing surgery on his throwing elbow. Story will bat third for Boston against the Kansas City Royals.
Trevor Story is hitting third today. Justin Turner won't play due to lingering heel soreness. Expected to miss a couple days but IL not on the table yet.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) August 8, 2023
Story was the Red Sox’ prize free-agent acquisition two offseasons ago, signing a six-year $140 million deal in the winter of 2021 after establishing himself as one of the league’s better two-way players with the Colorado Rockies. Injuries dogged him throughout his first year in Boston, though, as he hit just .238/.303/.434 with 22 doubles, 16 homers, 66 RBI, 53 runs and 13 steals in 94 games.
Then came even more bad news: In January, the team announced that that Story had undergone an “internal bracing procedure” in his ulnar collateral ligament — the same ligament involved in Tommy John surgery. Story wasn’t dealing with a full tear, but a player — even a middle infielder — undergoing any kind of procedure on the most important part of the throwing elbow is still pretty significant. (So much so that, at the time, the Red Sox said they weren’t counting on Story playing at all during the 2023 season.)
Slowly but surely, though, Story’s worked his way back, ramping up baseball activities through June before heading out on a rehab assignment late last month. That Minor League stint was an extended one, as Story obviously missed all of spring training and wanted to feel 100% before returning to the Majors. It’s safe to say he’s checked that box: After three games for Double-A Portland and 10 for Triple-A Worcester, Story ended with .300/.417/.700 slash line including four doubles, four homers, nine RBI and eight runs across 48 plate appearances. He also played shortstop for nine of those 13 contests.
His return couldn’t come at a better time for Boston, both because of the work they have to do in the AL Wild Card race — they enter Tuesday five back of the division-rival Toronto Blue Jays for the third and final spot — and because of how mightily the Red Sox have struggled for middle-infield production in Story’s absence. With Xander Bogaerts departing for the Padres in the offseason, Enrique Hernandez saw the most time at short to start the year, but he was dismal at the plate before being traded to the Dodgers. None of the team’s other options, from Yu Chang to Christian Arroyo to Pablo Reyes to Enmanuel Valdez, have fared much better. With Story back in the fold and ace Chris Sale hopefully not too far behind, though, Boston still has a chance to make some noise down the stretch.