Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo was the centerpiece for Boston in the trade that sent Mookie Betts to the Dodgers. That much is true.
However, the 24-year-old wants everyone to know he is not here to replace the four-time All-Star in right field. He said as much following a two-homer, home run-robbing performance as part of a 5-3 win over the Blue Jays on Friday night.
“I’m not replacing him,” Verdugo said of Betts during his postgame media availability. “Yeah, he played here, but this is a game. This is a business. He decided to go elsewhere. I’m not replacing him. That’s what you guys say. That’s what everybody else says. I’m going out there and playing right field, playing my game.”
Verdugo was acquired by the Sox from the Dodgers as part of a blockbuster five-player trade that included Betts back on February 10. The two are both capable of playing all three outfield positions, so the comparisons between them have essentially been nonstop since then. Still, the exuberant outfielder is not a huge fan of that.
“I don’t think about Mookie,” Verdugo added. “I think he’s a great player, he did a lot for Boston, and he’s going to do a lot for the Dodgers. I think about me being here and what I’m going to do and bring to the team. It’s not a comparable thing. I don’t like comparing it. I don’t like when people bring it up. Obviously, the nature of the trade, it’s going to happen. People are going to say it. I’m going to go out there. I’m gonna play my game and bring the energy that I bring. That’s how I always have been. I don’t care about shoes to fill or anything like that. I’m playing my game.”
Adding on to that, Verdugo does not feel any added pressure playing in the same outfield Betts had patrolled since 2014. Again, he’s here to play his game and that’s what he’s going to do.
“Like I said, (the media) sees me going into right field replacing Mookie,” he continued. “I don’t see it like that. I see that I’m playing right field for Boston. That’s it. It’s just another team, another organization. Got to go out there and compete, and do what you do. The same way he’s doing it over there, we’ve got to do it over here.”
Through 11 games with his new club, Verdugo is slashing .294/.368/.559 with three homers and four RBI. He may not be Mookie Betts, but he is making a solid first impression in Boston and is looking forward to the challenges that await.
The pressure the former second-round pick feels has more to do with performing on the field to the best of his abilities, not replacing a former MVP in right field.
“To go out there and feel some type of pressure or feel some type of way about myself like I need to show something, to hit homers or rob homers all the time to fill this void that Mookie left, no. I don’t have that,” Verdugo said. My job is to get on base, to try to make this game a little bit easier for the guys coming up behind me and in front of me.”
On Saturday, we could see Verdugo bat out of the leadoff spot for the first time as a member of the Red Sox, so that’s something to look forward to.