BOSTON — The Red Sox avoided a potentially disastrous turn for the worse when teammates Rafael Devers and Tyler O’Neill collided while both tracking a pop fly during Monday afternoon’s 6-0 loss to the Guardians.

O’Neill, left with a bloodied face while walking off the Fenway Park turf and into Boston’s dugout, needed eight stitches afterward. Meanwhile, Devers recovered a few moments later and played the remainder of the game after briefly speaking to a team athletic trainer.

Through 17 games, the Red Sox have led the MLB in errors committed (17), which skipper Alex Cora understands outsiders would attribute to Monday’s miscue between Devers and O’Neill. But Cora isn’t connecting those dots.

“Everybody will say, ‘Communication, they (expletive) at that, and all that,’ but there’s 35,000 people screaming, right? It just happens,” Cora explained before Tuesday night’s home matchup with the Guardians. “Two baseball players trying to make a play. It’s hard, and yeah in Little League, ‘I got it, I got it. Take it, take it, take it. That happens in Little League. That ball was in that triangle and they wanted to get out of the inning, and it just happens.”

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The Red Sox elected to keep O’Neill in the dugout on Tuesday night.

It’s a rare, freak accident for an infielder and outfielder to crash into each other at full speed, and one that couldn’t be more untimely.

O’Neill, who the Red Sox acquired this past offseason via trade with the St. Louis Cardinals, wasted no time making a difference in the batter’s box. The 28-year-old remains in a three-way tie — with Mike Trout and Marcell Ozuna — for MLB’s home run lead (7). O’Neill also leads Boston’s lineup in batting average (.313), walks (11) and slugging percentage (.750) through his first 15 games spent with the team.

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“This guy is important. He’s important to this offense,” Cora said of O’Neill.

Moving forward, as has been the case for the Red Sox since opening the 2024 campaign, new faces will be required to step up. When shortstop Trevor Story went down with a season-ending shoulder injury, infielder David Hamilton was promoted from Triple-A, joining Boston’s roster with only 15 games of previous big-league experience.

Youngsters who also made brief stints last season, including Wilyer Abreu, Ceddanne Rafaela and Enmanuel Valdez, find themselves in a similar spot.

“They’re learning. They’re learning,” Cora said. “It’s not easy to come in late in games and pinch it. It’s not easy to come in late in games and play defense, but we’re here. We’re in the big leagues. We try to help them out to prepare as much as possible and hopefully, it works out.”

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Entering the new season, it was known that Boston was fully invested in its youth movement. That hasn’t changed. Triston Casas is still the starting first baseman, Brayan Bello is the No. 1, and Jarren Duran remains a key piece to the team’s outfield and lineup.

That plan isn’t expected to change, regardless of who goes down, and as Boston looks to break out of its five losses in the last seven games played skid.

Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images