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Tomase: Trevor Story hears first signs of unrest from Red Sox fans

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It's a moment of reckoning that arrives for every Red Sox free agent signee, often after a slow start: boos.

Everyone hears them at some point, even all-time greats like David Ortiz. The question is how the player responds. Some, like Carl Crawford, internalize all of those external doubts and collapse. Others, like John Lackey, use such slights as fuel until defiantly winning a World Series.

We're about to discover which path Trevor Story chooses.

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The All-Star infielder's Red Sox career was already off to a poor start before Thursday's 8-0 matinee wipeout vs. the Angels marked a clear low point. Story struck out four times against overpowering right-hander Shohei Ohtani, and then heard the first sustained boos of his short Boston tenure.

"Expectations here are what they are," manager Alex Cora said. "What the fans expect are the same things he expects. That's part of the equation."

All involved would've hoped for a smoother transition. Signed for six years and $140 million as the presumed replacement for shortstop Xander Bogaerts (more on that in a second), Story's now hitting just .210 with a .589 OPS. He has also made a pair of errors at second base, including one that directly cost the Red Sox a win in Tampa.

That's not the way Chaim Bloom drew it up when he made Story the club's biggest splash, by far, of his leadership. The Red Sox expected the wildly athletic Story to take quickly to second base, and that's been a mixed bag, with his tremendous range offset by some minor throwing hiccups.


More importantly, they expected he'd add another elite bat to a lineup that includes Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez. His legitimate power, coupled with the potential to hit .300 and steal 20 bases, would be more than enough to mitigate any swing-and-miss tendencies.

It hasn't worked that way. Story remains vulnerable to sliders away and is hitting just .197 against right-handed pitching. Ohtani may be freakishly good -- "He throws everything hard," Martinez marveled -- but the Red Sox did touch him for six hits, including two from Jackie Bradley Jr. and another from Bobby Dalbec at the bottom of the order.

No such luck for Story, who struck out swinging at a splitter in the first, went down hacking on three pitches in the third, flailed at a 1-2 slider in the fifth, and then finally whiffed on a foul-tipped 97 mph fastball as Ohtani pumped his fist and screamed and Red Sox fans booed one of their highest-paid players off the field.

Welcome to Boston.

"I didn't hear the crowd," Martinez said. "I don't know what happened, but Trevor's a professional. He's a proven All-Star. My first month here, I think I was hitting like .200 and then I turned it on. So, I'm not putting anything past him. He's a great player. He's proven himself for a while now. I always like to measure guys at the end of the year, not after a month."

Martinez actually hit .200 for only about 10 days with the Red Sox in 2018 before catching fire. He finished April at .337 with five homers and 22 RBIs and never stopped, finishing at .330 with 43 homers and 130 RBIs en route to a championship.

Story has shown no such dynamism yet while awaiting his first homer, and he admitted before the game that after spending his entire career in Colorado at shortstop, coming to the Red Sox has required an adjustment. He's learning a new city, a new position, and a new league.

"Just a lot of new overall," he said. "In life, baseball, all of it. There's just a lot of new stuff going on. I'm very heavy on the routine and regimen of what's been successful for me."

To that end, Story took extra swings after Thursday's loss in an effort to find his stroke, but it won't be enough without results. Compounding any potential unrest is the fact that Story is widely viewed not only as insurance against Bogaerts leaving in free agency this fall, but as a pre-emptive replacement.

Though the two have quickly developed a strong rapport -- Story credited Bogaerts' recruitment with helping seal the deal in Boston, and the two were palling around in the clubhouse on Thursday morning -- Story still shoulders the added burden of eventually pushing the most popular player in the organization out the door.


That's not fair, of course, and it's obviously not his call, but it adds to the stress that has accompanied his arrival.

On Thursday, that stress finally manifested itself in the sound no player wants to hear. Story possesses the power to turn those boos to cheers, but once boos take root, they can be stubborn to eradicate.