BOSTON — The Red Sox haven’t had it easy to start 2024, already hampered by injuries to the pitching rotation, infield and outfield just 17 games in.

Most recently, the team decided to sit outfielder Tyler O’Neill, who cleared concussion protocol, for the next two games after Monday afternoon’s seventh-inning collision with Rafael Devers. O’Neill was left with eight stitches on his forehead in the aftermath, leaving Boston tasked with moving forward, regardless of how long the 28-year-old may remain sidelined.

That’s the expectation of Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

“It’s not fun, but it is what it is,” Cora said Tuesday before Boston’s matchup against the Guardians at Fenway Park. “We just gotta be ready for today, and the guys that are playing today, they gotta do their job. That’s the attitude that we have. That’s the attitude they should have. Players, we’ve been talking to them. We’re gonna use everybody, we’re gonna move people around, we’re gonna try to maximize matchups. Especially where we’re at right now, obviously, we just gotta be ready.”

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Similarly to last season, Boston entered 2024 in the middle of a battle with the injured list. Starter Lucas Giolito and shortstop Trevor Story have been dragged away with season-ending injuries. Meanwhile, infielder Vaughn Grissom still hasn’t debuted with the team, recovering from a groin strain suffered during spring training.

That’s not an easy position to work around, however, it does open the door for youngsters to rise to the occasion and create an impact.

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Boston knew it needed to improve both defensively and in the pitching department. So far, the team’s checked one of those two boxes with the pitching staff having recorded an MLB-best 2.68 ERA. Right-hander Kutter Crawford has been at the forefront, leading the Red Sox with a 0.42 ERA in 21 1/3 innings tossed to begin the year. As far as the defense is concerned… it’s still a work in progress.

The Red Sox currently leads all big-league clubs with 17 errors committed, which does an injustice to the stellar job the arms do on the mound.

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As the current Boston injury list is already occupied with several key names, it’ll be up to the next guy in line to take a step forward. When Story went down, infielder David Hamilton was called up from Triple-A, helping fill the shortstop void while settling into the big-league level.

Cora understands the inherent pressure of being thrown into the spotlight and given a meaningful role with the team.

“We live in an era that social media, they do a good job of creating the hype for all these players,” Cora deems the greatest challenge for prospects today. “It’s always been that way here. We’ve seen it, well, I’ve seen it. I think, all over the place, we know who’s starting for the (Texas) Rangers tomorrow, you know, and everybody’s excited about it. And we knew (Jackson) Holliday was coming here, and that’s the biggest challenge for the kids.

“People expect these guys to come up here and win 20 games and hit .330 and hit 30 home runs. That doesn’t happen. It might happen, but most of the time it doesn’t happen. Just gotta make sure in our case, let’s say we’re in that situation, make them feel comfortable and be patient with them, and hopefully the (Jarren) Duran’s happen, the (Triston) Casas’, the (Dustin) Pedroia’s, the (Jacoby) Ellsbury’s.”

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Last season, Duran was called upon after then-outfielder Adam Duvall went down with a fractured left wrist in April. Duran, who didn’t make the team’s Opening Day roster, leapfrogged into Cora’s outfield rotation and has settled in ever since. The 27-year-old is right back where he left off as Duran leads the Red Sox in hits (21) and stolen bases (6) through 17 games, hitting .323/.377/.419 in his last 62 at-bats.

It’ll be critical for others to follow in Duran’s footsteps moving forward in order for the Red Sox to flip the switch and undergo a needed breakout run.