Red Sox manager Alex Cora made it abundantly clear Friday who he views as Boston’s leadoff hitter this season.

The roster still could change before Opening Day. And the decision obviously is contingent upon health and other factors. But Jarren Duran is the frontrunner to hit atop the Red Sox’s lineup in 2024.

“For me, shoot, when Jarren was the leadoff guy for us, we were probably one of the best offenses in the big leagues,” Cora told reporters at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. “Obviously, we need him healthy out there every day. If he’s healthy, that’s my guy.”

Duran underwent season-ending toe surgery last August. So, the Red Sox can’t necessarily take his health for granted entering the season. Plus, Boston’s outfield is rather crowded. Other decisions need to be made in that regard.

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There’s no denying the dynamic skill set Duran offers when he’s firing on all cylinders, though. The 27-year-old has a chance to be a real game-changer, regardless of where he’s hitting. If he’s able to build on last season’s success, out of the leadoff spot, it would only strengthen Boston’s lineup.

Duran is coming off a season in which he batted .295 with eight home runs, 40 RBIs and an .828 OPS in 102 games (362 plate appearances) with Boston. Those numbers were buoyed, to an extent, by an unsustainable .381 batting average on balls in play. But he’s capable of squaring the ball up (77th percentile in hard-hit rate) and trimmed his strikeout rate in 2023.

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It was an encouraging year offensively for a player who’s long been known for his elite speed (96th percentile in sprint speed, 24 stolen bases in 2023) and who looks to be in excellent shape upon reporting to spring training.

“I don’t know, man. I think matchups will dictate that and the roster will dictate that,” Cora said when asked who might bat leadoff if it’s not Duran. “But as of now, for me, if Jarren’s healthy, he’s our leadoff guy.”

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Featured image via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images