Even while serving his one-year suspension this past season, Red Sox manager Alex Cora still took the time to watch baseball, and the Red Sox, as a fan.
Though Cora acknowledged that watching the 24-36 Sox struggle from afar was tough, he also pointed out that he liked what he saw from some players in particular.
Tanner Houck, Nick Pivetta, and Alex Verdugo, all of whom made their Red Sox debuts in 2020, drew praise from the Sox skipper, with Verdugo getting the nod as the team’s most valuable player.
“Alex is a good player,” Cora said of the young outfielder when speaking with MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo Tuesday. “I saw him with the Dodgers, the previous year, a guy that brings a lot of energy to the equation on a daily basis. He can hit lefties, he can hit righties. I think he settled in the lineup. Defensively, he did an outstanding job for the team. For everything that is going on as far as like no fans and the protocols and how quote-on-quote uncomfortable it was for a team that didn’t play well, I do believe he was the best player on the team, the MVP.”
After coming over from Los Angeles as the centerpiece of the Mookie Betts trade back in February, Verdugo enjoyed great success at the plate with his new club. In 53 games, the 24-year-old posted a robust .308/.367/.478 slash line to go along with six home runs and 15 RBI.
On top of providing quality production at the top of the Boston lineup, Verdugo also dazzled defensively from both corner outfield positions. That much was evident by how he finished the year with seven outfield assists, tied for the most in baseball.
As Cora mentioned in the above quote, Verdugo got his first taste of playing at Fenway Park last July, when the Dodgers visited the Sox for a three-game series right after the All-Star break. In said series, the former second-round pick impressed with a pair of multi-hit games in the two games he started.
Those performances drew the attention of the likes of Cora, and although the Sox manager had already left the team by the time Boston acquired Verdugo from Los Angeles in February, he is very much looking forward to getting to know the exuberant 24-year-old better now that he is back.
“I actually spoke to him a few days ago,” Cora said. “What I saw is what I heard on the phone. Looking forward to working with him and making him a better player.”
How Cora develops relationships with Verdugo and other young players who were not on the team prior to his suspension should be something worth monitoring once spring training begins.