SPRINGFIELD -- Of all the gut punches to stagger the Red Sox this winter -- the loss of Xander Bogaerts in free agency, the failure to sign any of their top free agent targets -- the one that may have hit hardest was Trevor Story's elbow.
After all, we assumed Bogaerts was a goner from the moment the team lowballed him in April. And Chaim Bloom cautiously toeing the frigid free agent waters isn't exactly new.
But Story? No one saw his elbow surgery coming, and then no one could believe it might cost him the entire season.
So when Story showed up at Winter Weekend on Saturday with his right arm in a bionic sling, it was comforting to hear him guarantee he'll play this season.
"Oh yeah," he said. "In my mind, yes."
Tomase: Winter Weekend anything but pleasant for Red Sox
The question is when. Not even two weeks out from what can best be described as a modified Tommy John surgery that braced his right ulnar collateral ligament rather than replace it, Story admitted it's a little early to put a timetable on his return.
"A lot of that depends on the way we're progressing with this whole rehab process," he said. "But I feel good about this. I feel good about how I'm going to attack this and the team that we have and all of our therapy guys, I know we're going to do the best job that we can. It'll be something I'm really looking forward to. We're going to do it the right way. We're not going to cut any corners."
That said, losing the two-time All-Star is a serious blow. With Bogaerts gone, Story was a strong candidate to slide back from second to his natural position of shortstop. In retrospect, it was clearly a red flag that the Red Sox hesitated to announce that move.
That's because Story exhibited diminished arm strength last season, just as he had a year earlier in Colorado. He had hoped a period of rest would fix the problem, but soon after he began cutting loose in December, he knew something was wrong.
"Just as I was ramping up the throwing program in the offseason, starting to put more on it and get ready for the season, in this instance, it just felt a little different," he said. "I just felt a little more tingly feeling, not something that should happen, and so immediately I just kind of stopped for a bit and thought I would go get it checked out. It ended up being a situation where surgery is a possibility and that's the route we went."
Cleaning it up now at least allows for the possibility that the tremendous all-around athlete can move back to short once he's healthy. Until then, the Red Sox will miss his bat and glove.
"Bottom line, if me playing short helps us win, then yeah, and I've always seen myself as that," he said. "I still know that I can do that. That's the mentality I take no matter where I play, so whatever happens, kind of coming closer to it, we'll make that decision then, but yeah, in my mind, I'm getting ready for that."