Nolan Arenado looked across the Fenway Park diamond this weekend and watched something that was strange to him.
Trevor Story – his former teammate on the left side of the Rockies infield for five seasons – was playing second base for the Red Sox. But this wasn’t odd to him: Story, who played a fine shortstop next to him at third base for those years in Colorado, was still making impressive plays.
“As the game went on, I saw how comfortable he looked and how great those plays were he was making,” Arenado, now with the Cardinals, said before Sunday’s series finale. “He made them look easy. Those are not easy plays, those were really hard plays. I was just more impressed with how easy he made it look. …
“He’s always been really good. He’s always had really great range and he’s got good hands. He’s always had that. Obviously when you go to a different position, it’s probably not the easiest thing to do, but I know that he’s elite when it comes to those things. I’m not surprised that he’s striving over there.”
Story’s defense at second base this season – which he had never before played regularly in the majors – has been so eye-opening that Red Sox manager Alex Cora claimed him as the best defensive second baseman in baseball this weekend. But while that part of his game has looked seamless, Story’s overall transition hasn’t been the smoothest ride.
Colorado Rockies’ Trevor Story (27) and Nolan Arenado (28) bump fists after both scored on a double by Josh Fuentes during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Story had a delayed start after signing with the Red Sox late in spring training and missing time to go home for the birth of his first child. His defense has been reliable all year, but he started slow offensively. Then came the torrid two-week stretch in which he hit nine homers in 14 games. And then he cooled off again.
Arenado – who was traded from the Rockies to the Cardinals before the 2021 season – has maintained a close relationship with Story. He’s confident that his former teammate’s best is bound to come.
“I know he’s not happy with the way he’s playing and he’s still helping the team win ballgames and he’s only going to help them win more,” Arenado said. “He hasn’t gotten going yet. I know he had a little streak there where he was hitting some bombs and playing well, but I’ve seen him do that a little bit more on a consistent basis. I think that time is coming once he gets a little more comfortable. He takes pride in both (offense and defense). He takes it serious, works extremely hard and sooner or later, the tide’s going to turn and when it turns, I think for him and that team, it’s going to turn big. …
“I think it’s just a matter of time until he really starts playing at an MVP level.”
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Arenado can relate to Story’s situation even though he was traded to a new team – “a little different, but we both went to places that we wanted to be, which was cool,” Arenado said. Among the biggest adjustments, Arenado said he knows exactly what Story is going through in terms of facing new pitchers, as he had to transition to a new division. In Story’s case, he’s had to transition to an entirely new league.
Arenado thinks Story, who hit his first homer since May 26 in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals, is doing well given the circumstances – new team, new position, a big contract and bigger expectations than he’s used to in a bigger market, among other things. It’s just taken some time, and will take some more for everything to come together.
“I think he’s handling it fine,” Arenado said. “I’m not trying to make excuses but these are just the facts. There’s a lot of pitchers that he’s probably only had a few at-bats against, he’s gotta get used to those bullpens. When you play in the NL West for six years, you know exactly who you’re facing every day. So once he gets a little more comfortable, gets to know some of these guys he’s facing and has an idea and a better plan against them, I think he’s going to thrive. I think that’s just a matter of time.
“He kind of signed late, he kind of jumped into this thing right away and that’s hard to do at a place like this because the expectations are always so high here. I know the expectations for himself are always high and it’s just a matter of time until he really turns it on.”