Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts Says Alex Verdugo Is ‘Going to Be a Guy We Lean Heavy On’

Since Summer Camp workouts began at Fenway Park last Friday, Red Sox players have used the ballpark’s luxury suites as locker rooms in order to practice social distancing.

Whenever a player isn’t doing something on the field or in the concourse, you will typically find him in his suite, eating a pre-packaged meal or simply hanging out.

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was in that scenario on Monday, and while taking in the view of Fenway from his luxury box, he also had the chance to watch new teammate Alex Verdugo take batting practice. That is something he did not have the opportunity to do in Fort Myers during the initial version of spring training because Verdugo was working his way back from a stress fracture in his lower back.

Now, after watching a healthy Verdugo in his element at the plate, Bogaerts is impressed with what he saw.

“I saw him take BP yesterday,” the two-time All-Star told reporters via Zoom on Tuesday. “He was hitting that ball pretty good, to be honest. I was watching him from the top of my suite. He came here and he was hurt and he was getting treatments so I didn’t see a lot of him while he was with us (in spring training). Obviously only with the Dodgers. But he seemed pretty good and obviously that’s going to be a guy that we lean heavy on. And he’s healthy. So the more guys that are healthy, the better.”

The centerpiece of the Mookie Betts trade with the Dodgers from February, Verdugo is hoping to see regular playing time for Boston despite being part of a crowded outfield picture that includes Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, and J.D. Martinez, to an extent.

“I want to play and I want to be a starter,” the 24-year-old said Saturday. “That’s what everybody comes into the big leagues for. That’s what everybody wants to be. So I want to play every day. But, if they want to do what they have to do, then I’ll follow and I’ll play as hard as I can.”

A left-handed hitter by trade who made his major-league debut in September 2017, Verdugo owns a career .273/.335/.448 slash line in 355 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, and a career .306/.333/.452 slash line in 133 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers. He will be the first Red Sox player to ever don the No. 99 on his uniform.

 

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo Progressing ‘Really Well’ From Back Injury

For the first time since last September, Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo faced live hitting on Saturday.

Throughout spring training and the COVID-19 pandemic-induced layoff, the 24-year-old was limited to hitting at home and in the batting cages at JetBlue Park while working his way back from a lower back stress fracture.

As excited as he was to get back to seeing live pitching at Fenway Park on Saturday, facing off against flame-throwing right-hander Nathan Eovaldi was no easy task.

“Let’s say I got welcomed real quick to good old 99 MPH,” Verdugo told reporters via Zoom. “The biggest thing for me today was to see the (velocity) out of his hand, see one of the most elite, best pitchers and go from there. I took a full swing, swung and missed and had no pain or discomfort. That was reassuring. That’s what this is about, to get my timing back, to reassure that my body, physically, is handling progression really well.”

The COVID-19 break has physically “done wonders” for Verdugo’s body in terms of endurance and strength. He is now looking forward to making a name for himself in a crowded Red Sox outfield.

“For me, I’m an everyday player,” the left-handed hitter said when asked about the prospect of being part of a platoon. “That’s just that. It’s that simple. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. I want to be out there every single day competing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lefty out on the mound to a righty on the mound. I feel like my splits are reversed. I hit lefties better than I hit righties. So I’m just someone who wants to be out there every single day. I want to play and I want to be a starter.”

Speaking of splits, since making his major-league debut with Los Angeles in 2017, Verdugo owns a career .273/.335/.448 slash line in 355 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, and a career .306/.333/.452 slash line in 133 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers. So, he’s not entirely wrong about having reverse splits.

As currently constructed, the Red Sox have three left-handed hitting outfielders on their active roster in Verdugo, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr. Kevin Pillar and J.D. Martinez represent the opposite side of that coin as two right-handed hitting outfielders.

Despite how amped up he may be to get back on the field, it would not be shocking to see the Sox ease Verdugo back into things, especially when considering how serious back injuries can be.

How Roenicke manages the outfield once the 2020 campaign begins will definitely be something to keep an eye on.

 

Dodgers’ David Price Opts Out of 2020 Season Due to Concerns Surrounding Coronavirus

Former Red Sox and current Dodgers left-hander David Price is the latest player who has made the decision to sit out the 2020 Major League Baseball season due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a tweet, Price, who turns 35 next month, writes in part: “After considerable thought and discussion with my family and the Dodgers, I have decided it is in the best interest of my health and my family’s health for me not to play this season.”

Along with four-time All-Star Mookie Betts, Price was dealt to the Dodgers back in February from the Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo, infield prospect Jeter Downs, and catching prospect Connor Wong.

One reason Price opted to not play in this shortened season could be the fact that he has two young children at home in three-year-old Xavier and 11-month old Isabel. Not to mention his wife, Tiffany.

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Who you gonna call?! #staypuft #ghostbusters

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To paraphrase a section of the March agreement between MLB and the MLBPA, “High-risk players can opt out of the 2020 because of coronavirus concerns and still get paid. Players who are not deemed to be at a high risk can also opt out while surrendering their 2020 salaries and service time.”

If he is not deemed to be at a high risk, Price would have to surrender the $11.9 million he was set to earn in prorated salary this season. Because of this, as The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham notes, the Red Sox should be off the hook for the $5.95 million they would have owed the lefty in 2020.

Back in late May, Price committed $1,000 to every minor-league player in the Dodgers’ organization to help support them during the coronavirus pandemic. Los Angeles is sure to miss his veteran presence during these unprecedented times.

Red Sox One of Several Teams Who Could Sign Yasiel Puig, per Report

The Red Sox are among the teams who could possibly sign free-agent outfielder Yasiel Puig, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

Per Heyman, who appeared on Thursday night’s edition of MLB Tonight, the Red Sox are one of four clubs “who have been mentioned as possibilities” for the 29-year-old outfielder. The others being the Giants, Padres, and Rays.

Arguably the best free agent remaining ahead of the start of the 2020 season, Puig did have major-league offers on the table prior the coronavirus-induced, league-wide shutdown. The Marlins, for instance, were one of those teams who had offered the Cuba national a one-year deal.

But, as Heyman noted, Puig wanted to hold out in the hopes of playing in front of bigger crowds.

That component to his decision is off the table now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so it would appear that guaranteed money and/or playing time would be most prevalent in Puig’s pursuit to find a new club.

Splitting time between the Reds and Indians last season, the one-time All-Star slashed .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI over 149 games played primarily as a right fielder.

The Red Sox, as currently constructed, are a team that has a solid amount of outfield depth at the major-league level. Between Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Verdugo, Kevin Pillar, and J.D. Martinez, it’s somewhat difficult to see how Puig would fit in that crowded outfield picture in 2020.

Of course, as noted quality Twitter follow @RedSoxStats brings up, “If the Sox know they have any room below the tax threshold, they should gobble up any talent [at] any position.”

It’s definitely surprising that Puig is still on the open market six days after MLB’s freeze on roster moves was lifted. On a personal note, I don’t view Boston as favorites to sign the former Dodgers star, but it will certainly be fascinating to watch how things unfold regarding Puig and other free agents in the coming days.

First Wave of Red Sox Players Report to Fenway Park for Start of Summer Camp

The first wave of Red Sox players and staff reported to Fenway Park earlier Wednesday afternoon for the start of Summer Camp.

Based off photos taken by team photographer Billie Weiss, it appears that Mitch Moreland, Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Verdugo, Michael Chavis, Christian Vazquez, Chris Mazza, Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, Tzu-Wei Lin, Brian Johnson, Marcus Walden, Colten Brewer, Ryan Brasier, Martin Perez, Jonathan Arauz, Kevin Plawecki, and Kevin Pillar were among this initial group of players.

Other players, such as Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez, are likely traveling to Boston as we speak and will presumably check in at Fenway Park on Thursday.

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Boston bound 🛩 #baseballsback #mlb

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As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, players and staff who check in over the next two days will be subject to individual COVID-19 screening sessions that have been organized by an independent collection service.

Per Cotillo, “Once players arrive, they will be subjected to a three-part collection process that includes:

  • A temperature check with contactless thermometer
  • A body fluid sample (saliva or oral/nasal swab) for diagnostic/PCR testing (this is the normal nose-swab COVID-19 test)
  • A venous blood collection or dried blood spot sample for serology/antibody testing”

Once completed and processed, test samples will be sent to the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah. In the mean time, players and staff will have to self-quarantine from anywhere between 24-48 hours while the Red Sox and Major League Baseball await the results.

If an individual’s test results come back negative, they can report to Fenway for workouts later this week, but if someone tests positive for COVID-19, they will have to self-isolate for up to two weeks and test negative twice before being able to rejoin the team again.

That being said, there won’t be much going on in terms of baseball activities at Fenway Park until Friday, when pitchers and catchers are set to report and begin their workouts for the 2020 season.

Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said Monday that despite players having some concerns about the coronavirus, he expects “everybody to come in.”

The 2020 season, which will consist of just 60 games for teams, is scheduled to begin on July 23rd. It’s not known at this point who exactly the Red Sox will be playing on Opening Day.

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo ‘Probably Farther Along Than Anyone,’ According to Ron Roenicke

In terms of preparations for the upcoming, abbreviated 2020 season, Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo is “probably further along than anyone,” manager Ron Roenicke told reporters earlier Monday afternoon.

That being the case because, according to Roenicke, the 24-year-old “has been on the field and hitting in the cage” under team supervision while other players have not gotten that opportunity.

Coming off a stress fracture in his lower back suffered while with the Dodgers last season, Verdugo, along with left-hander Chris Sale, had the opportunity to report back to JetBlue Park earlier than most players last month in order to continue his rehab.

Because of this, in addition to the fact that he remained in Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic-induced shutdown, the Arizona native was able to get some work in at the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers.

Prior to said shutdown ordered by Major League Baseball back in March, it looked as though Verdugo would miss the first chunk of the original 2020 season due to that stress fracture.

Now, as chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters last week, the former Dodgers top prospect “should be all systems go” once the Red Sox report to Fenway Park for summer training camp on Wednesday.

As things stand at the moment, it looks like Verdugo could split time in right field with Kevin Pillar as he eases his way back from that back ailment.

Roenicke also mentioned that things “could change [for Verdugo] depending on how things match up with opposing teams.”

Since making his major-league debut with Los Angeles in 2017, the former second-round draft pick owns a career .273/.335/.448 slash line in 355 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, and a career .306/.333/.452 slash line in 133 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers.

The day-to-day status of Verdugo will certainly be something to monitor once training camp begins this week. As Roenicke put it, hopefuly there won’t be any setbacks and he’ll be ready to go once Opening Day 2.0 rolls around in late July.

Red Sox Injury Updates: Alex Verdugo and Collin McHugh Making Significant Progress as Training Camp Nears

Two of the newest additions to the 2020 Red Sox are progressing well from their injuries, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters in a Zoom call earlier Wednesday night.

Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo, the centerpiece in the February Mookie Betts trade, was coming off a stress fracture in his lower back suffered while he was with the Dodgers last year. It looked as though he would miss quite a bit of the 2020 season earlier in the spring.

Now, with an abbreviated 60-game campaign set to begin late next month, the 24-year-old likely won’t miss any game time at all if all goes according to plan.

“He should be all systems go,” Bloom said of Verdugo Wednesday. “The only limitation on him at this point is what we’ve been able to do by virtue of the fact that we’ve been shut down. He’s handled everything great. He should be ready to roll as we get him ramped up. This applies to everybody but it certainly applies to him given what he’s been through. We’re not going to cut corners. But we’re optimistic that he’s going to be ready to roll.”

With Kevin Pillar and touted prospects like Jarren Duran and Marcus Wilson in the mix, the Red Sox still should not feel the need to rush Verdugo back from his back ailment.

Once the Arizona native reports to training camp at Fenway Park next week, things will presumably become more clear regarding a course of action to take before the season starts.

As for the other new addition, veteran right-hander Collin McHugh has been “doing well” as he recovers from an offseason non-surgical procedure to repair a flexor strain.

While getting back to throwing off a mound in recent weeks, the 33-year-old is “basically progressing towards games,” per Bloom.

“He has tolerated everything really well,” Boston’s chief baseball officer added. “We’ve tried to build him up really responsibility. Don’t know yet on an exact timetable but he is progressing really well.”

The Red Sox and McHugh agreed to a one-year deal in early March that included $600,000 in guaranteed money.

At the time, the one-year pact also included incentives that could bring its value upwards of $4 million, but things have obviously changed now due to a shortened season where players will receive prorated salaries.

McHugh, a native of Illinois, spent the previous six seasons with the Astros and has experience working as both a starter and reliever. That versatility could prove to be quite valuable this year if the hurler is healthy.

In non-physical ailment-related news, an unidentified player on the Sox’ 40-man roster tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month while exposed to the virus in his hometown. As of now, he is not displaying any symptoms, according to Bloom.

Red Sox Open Fenway South Complex for Players to Prepare for 2020 Season, If There Is One

The Red Sox have opened the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers back up for players to once again prepare for the 2020 season, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

The important distinction here is that before this week, the complex was only available to players who were working their way back from injuries, such as Alex Verdugo and Chris Sale.

Now though, I would imagine the facility surrounding JetBlue Park is available to Red Sox players and staff in the same capacity it was before pitchers and catchers reported to camp back in February.

Per Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the complex was open on Wednesday and Thursday to a handful of players that included Jackie Bradley Jr. and Tzu-Wei Lin, and he expects that the exact number of players who show up “may vary day to day.”

This news comes at a time where the club is debating on whether to hold a second version of spring training in Boston or Fort Myers if baseball does indeed return this year. Of course, that all depends on the ongoing negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLBPA.

As Abraham notes, if the two sides can reach an agreement on starting the season relatively soon, “formal workouts would begin approximately June 10th and last three weeks.”

These preseason workouts would more than likely consist of intrasquad games, so it would seem like it would be in the Sox’ best interest to hold a second version of spring training in Fort Myers rather than Boston given the volume of players who would be on hand in this scenario.

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo: ‘Whenever the Season Starts I Think I Will Be Ready’

Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo is back working out at the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers, and when the 2020 Major League Baseball season does resume, he feels like he’ll be good to go.

Speaking with reporters via conference call on Monday afternoon for the first time since spring training was suspended in March, Verdugo said he is “physically…100%” after fully recovering from the stress fracture in his lower back.

“I feel very good just moving around with everything,” said the 23-year-old. “My swing, my throwing, running. I feel really good. The complex shut down for three weeks when the whole coronavirus and all that started coming out. So I still stayed active at home. I was hitting, throwing a little bit and working out. But obviously didn’t have the amount of resources I do at the facility.”

Here’s some video of Verdugo working out at home in Fort Myers:

From there, Verdugo was able to get back into the facility last week after the Red Sox opened it back up following a brief shutdown period due to a minor-leaguer testing positive for COVID-19 on March 24th.

“When I got back…we took it slow again,” he said. “We just kind of ramped it back up, just seeing how the three weeks, how my body kind of looked and how it felt to my trainers.”

Here’s some video of Verdugo working out at the JetBlue Park complex:

When the Red Sox acquired Verdugo, as well as prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong, from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade in February, they were already aware of the young outfielder’s ailment. Had the 2020 season began as originally planned on March 26th, he probably would not have been ready for Opening Day.

Now, with the start date of the season still up in the air, Verdugo could be ready to start right away.

“I feel like we’re back on track,” he said. “Whenever the season starts, I think I’ll be ready. Whether that is soon, whether it’s a few months down the road or whatever that may be. I think physically I’m ready.”

While he is training every day like there is going to be a season and working out Fenway South four times a week, Verdugo is regularly checking in with Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke “every one or two weeks.” The training staff he is working with at JetBlue is also sending video to Roenicke and hitting coach Tim Hyers.

“I’m going to keep preparing and training and keeping my mind sharp so I’m already mentally locked in and physically ready to go for it,” said Verdugo.

As he came over from the Dodgers earlier in the year, the Arizona native admitted that being traded was at first difficult for him but he now views the move “as a blessing.”

With his new club, Verdugo expects to be as productive as ever, adding “I think I’m at such a good position mentally and physically. I’m just ready to go and just play. I know if I play and I feel the way I feel right now, my numbers will be what they always have been.”

Once touted as one of the best outfield prospects in baseball, Verdugo slashed .294/.342/.475 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI over 106 games played for Los Angeles in 2019.

The centerpiece in the aforementioned deal that sent soon-to-be free agent Mookie Betts to southern California, Verdugo did say that it would be “pretty crazy” and “pretty nuts” if his counterpart never played a game for the Dodgers if the 2020 season winds up getting cancelled. We’ll have to wait and see on that, though.

 

Could Alex Verdugo Be Next Two-Way Player for Red Sox?

Coming out of high school in 2014, Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo was seen by clubs as both a tantalizing hitting and pitching prospect ahead of that year’s amateur draft.

While attending Sahauro High School in Tucson, Ariz., Verdugo played for the varsity baseball team all four years he was a high school student.

In his final season before graduating, Verdugo put up a gaudy .532/.593/.861 slash line in addition to posting a 2.26 ERA over 10 appearances (nine starts) and 52 2/3 innings of work as one of his team’s standout left-handed pitchers.

Those impressive numbers on both sides of the ball made the Tuscon native one of the top high school players in the state of Arizona, and they also made it difficult for team’s scouting departments to determine what the future held for the young left-hander/outfielder.

The Red Sox, under then-general manager Ben Cherington, had two opportunities to draft Verdugo in the first round of the ’14 draft but passed on him both times. Sox scouts, according to The Athletic’s Chad Jennings, “had him as a hitter on draft day, but it was a close decision and their scouts were split.”

Verdugo instead fell to the Dodgers with the 62nd overall pick. Despite how much they liked him as a pitcher, though, Los Angeles ultimately chose to label him as an outfielder, “believing he could always transition back to the mound if hitting didn’t work out.”

As it turned out, hitting did indeed work out for Verdugo, as he raked his way to becoming one of the top outfield prospects in baseball ahead of the 2017, 2018, and 2019 seasons.

Still, even with a solid track record as a hitter and a solid OPS of .817 in his first full-ish season in the majors last year, Verdugo remains interested in pitching and likens it to his little league days.

“I would be like a little kid again,” he said to Jennings in regards to being a two-way player. “Just playing ball again. Driving to the games or the tournaments, that was cool coming out of center field to go throw one inning … just try to freakin’ blow up the doors, and after that, I go back to center and we have another guy come in.”

As he told Jennings back in March, Verdugo, who turns 24 next month, understands that all this talk about pitching is just a fantasy for the time being. Until he can get through a full season healthy, it will stay that way. If he can stay healthy for a full season and produce at a high level though, Verdugo will then implement a plan that involves an offseason throwing program, building strength and durability in his arm, throwing a full bullpen sessions in Fort Myers during spring training, and then, if the Red Sox are getting blown out in a game, be used as a reliever in mop-up duty.

“I’d be like, ‘All right, I won’t throw hard today, I promise you guys!'” Verdugo told Jennings. “I’ll just go out there, and maybe I’m throwing 70 percent and touching 90 (MPH). And then they’re like, ‘Wait a minute!'”

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told Jennings via email that although he generally does not like “to take options off the table,” the priority right now is “helping Alex through his rehab so he can impact us at the plate and in the outfield! It just goes to show how confident he is.”

The Rays, Bloom’s former employer, drafted two-way player Brendan McKay out of Louisville in the first round of the 2017 draft, when Bloom was still there. McKay, 24, made his big-league debut for Tampa Bay last June, and posted a 5.14 ERA over 13 outings (11 starts) while going 2-for-10 with one home run at the plate.

Like McKay, Verdugo is both a left-handed hitter and pitcher. It does not seem like the easiest transition to make as a baseball player.”

“It still takes a special player to do both and a lot of work on the part of the staff to help manage workload on both sides of the ball” Bloom said. This is especially important in Verdugo’s case, considering he came to Boston as the centerpiece in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade with a stress fracture in his lower back and will likely be monitored closely once baseball activities do eventually resume sometime in the near future.

For now though, it was fun to ponder on this hypothetical possibility and it will be something to pay even closer attention to in 2021 or 2022.