New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox outfield prospect Tyler Dearden joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox outfield prospect Tyler Dearden.

Dearden, 23, was originally selected by Boston in the 29th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Rancocas Valley Regional High School (N.J.).

He just put together a 2021 season in which he slashed .261/.368/.523 with a record-setting 24 home runs and 80 RBI over 97 games (418 plate appearances) at High-A Greenville.

Among the topics Tyler and I discussed are what it was like playing against fellow Red Sox prospects Jay Groome and Nick Decker while in high school, what led him to go pro out of high school, how he used the COVID-19 shutdown last year to improve his craft, how not getting invited to fall instructs last year served as motivation for him this season, what he thought about some of his teammates at Greenville (like Nick Yorke), how he plans on spending the offseason, what he has in store for 2022, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

My thanks to Tyler for taking some time out of his schedule to have this conversation with me. You can follow him on Twitter (@tylerdearden) by clicking here and on Instagram (@tylerdearden) by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Tyler Dearden via his Instagram)

Red Sox prospects Marcelo Mayer, Niko Kavadas hit first home runs of professional careers in Florida Complex League action

A pair of Red Sox prospects and 2021 draft picks each belted the first home runs of their professional careers down in Fort Myers earlier Saturday morning.

Marcelo Mayer, Boston’s first-round selection, and Niko Kavadas, Boston’s 11th-round selection, both homered for the Florida Complex League Red Sox as part of their 11-5 victory over the Florida Complex League Twins at JetBlue Park.

Mayer’s homer came as part of a productive day at the plate, as the 18-year-old went 2-for-6 with his first home run, two runs scored, and four RBI.

It was Mayer who got the Red Sox on the board first on Saturday, with Eddinson Paulino kicking things off in the bottom of the first inning with a leadoff double off Twins starter Develson Laria and Mayer following with an RBI single to center field.

In the bottom of the third, Kavadas got his solid day at the plate started out of the cleanup spot by taking Twins reliever Elpidio Perez extremely deep to right field for his first home run of the season, which put his side up 3-0.

Fast forward to the fifth, and Mayer came through with a big fly of his own, this time clubbing a three-run shot off left-hander John Wilson for what was also his first home run of the year.

After a double off the bat of Nathan Hickey, Kavadas — who led off the bottom of the fifth by drawing a walk — drove in the former University of Florida catcher by drilling an RBI double to right field and giving the Red Sox a commanding 10-0 lead in the process of doing so.

All told, Kavadas finished his day having gone 2-for-2 with a double, two walks, two RBI, and two runs scored before being replaced at first base by Cuba Bess in the seventh inning.

Kavadas, who signed with Boston for $250,000 earlier this month, made his professional debut on August 10.

Including Saturday’s solid showing, the 22-year-old first baseman out of the University of Notre Dame is now slashing .286 (4-for-14)/.500/.643 with one home run, two doubles, two RBI, four runs scored, six walks, and four strikeouts through his first five games (20 plate appearances) in the Florida Complex League.

Mayer, meanwhile, signed with the Sox for $6.664 million after becoming the club’s highest draft pick (fourth overall) in more than 50 years last month.

Regarded by many as the top prep prospect coming into this summer’s draft, the left-handed hitting shortstop out of Eastlake High School (Calif.) is currently ranked by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect in Boston’s farm system, trailing only Triston Casas and Jarren Duran.

By notching two hits in his six trips to the plate on Saturday, Mayer — who does not turn 19 until December — raised his batting line on the season with the FCL Red Sox to .214/.313/.357 to go along with one double, one home run, five RBI, five runs scored, four walks, and seven strikeouts over his first seven games (32 plate appearances) as a pro.

(Picture of Marcelo Mayer: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Who is Johan Mieses? Red Sox minor-league outfielder currently leads Double-A Northeast with 11 homers in 22 games

When thinking about which Red Sox minor-leaguers may lead the organization in home runs slightly less than a full month into the 2021 minor-league season, one might guess it’s either one of top prospects Triston Casas or Jarren Duran, or maybe even slugging first baseman Josh Ockimey.

The truth is, neither of those three lead the Red Sox farm system in long balls to this point in the minor-league season. That honor would fall to perhaps a less recognizable name in the form of outfielder Johan Mieses.

Through 22 games with Double-A Portland this spring, Mieses is slashing .288/.374/.725 (190 wRC+) to go along with two doubles, a team-leading 11 home runs, 22 RBI, 18 runs scored, nine walks, and 17 strikeouts over 91 plate appearances.

In six games this past week alone, Mieses went 9-for-23 (.391) at the plate in the process of hitting two doubles, clubbing four home runs, collecting 10 RBI, and scoring five times to be named the Double-A Northeast League Player of the Week.

Mieses, who turns 26 next month, originally signed a minor-league deal with Boston back in November 2019 after spending the first seven years of his professional career between the Dodgers and Cardinals organizations.

While he did not spend any time at the team’s alternate training site or fall instructional league last year in the wake of the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dominican native did re-sign with the Sox in November.

A former top prospect of the Dodgers who was involved in the trade that sent infielder Breyvic Valera from St. Louis to Los Angeles in 2018, Mieses hits from the right side of the plate, throws with his right hand, and is listed at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds.

Among the top hitters in the Double-A Northeast (formerly the Eastern League), Mieses comes into play Tuesday ranking fifth in runs scored, 11th in hits (23), first in home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage, and third in OPS (1.099).

In addition to primarily batting out of the cleanup spot, Mieses has seen the majority of his playing time come in right field with some left field and designated hitter mixed in there as well.

Prior to joining the Red Sox organization two falls ago, the right-handed hitting outfielder had played 22 games at the Triple-A level while with the Cardinals in 2019. In those 22 games, he posted a .339/.414/.677 slash line with six homers and 17 RBI in 70 plate appearances.

Considering the fact that he is performing well in Double-A this season and has a solid — albeit small — track record of success at the next level, one has to wonder if Mieses could be on the verge of earning himself a promotion to Triple-A Worcester sooner rather than later.

(Picture of Johan Mieses: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo describes hitting home run with family and friends at Fenway Park for his birthday as ‘a very special moment’

Alex Verdugo came into Saturday afternoon’s game against the Angels with a lot on his mind.

Not only was the young outfielder celebrating his 25th birthday with some family and friends in the stands at Fenway Park, but he was also riding one of the worst slumps of his Red Sox career to this point.

Heading into Saturday’s contest, Verdugo was just 2-for-his-last 24 (.083) at the plate over his previous six games dating back to May 9.

As someone who sets the bar exceptionally high for himself, this recent skid was surely weighing on Verdugo. But he was able to put his mind at ease in his first at-bat of the day on Saturday.

Matched up against Angels starter Dylan Bundy for the first time in his career, Verdugo took a 1-2, 85 mph changeup down the heart of the plate and crushed it 427 feet to right field for his fifth home run of the season.

The Red Sox went up 1-0 on the left-handed hitter’s solo shot and wound up routing the Halos by a final score of 9-0 to improve to 25-16 on the year.

“It was extremely nice, I won’t lie,” Verdugo said when asked about setting the tone with is bat on Saturday. “Obviously, the last week or so, I’ve been kind of pressing a little bit. So just to go up today, have simple thoughts, get down 0-2, and just kind of battle. Get a pitch over the zone, take it out of the park and give us an early lead just so we can breathe and let Martin (Perez) get into his rhythm and his groove.

“It was big. It was big, man. I can’t stress that enough,” he added. “It helped my shoulders, it helped me all relax, and just kind of have fun again.”

In the process of rounding the bases for the first time at Fenway since May 4, Verdugo pointed towards the Red Sox dugout while first beginning his trot, towards left field as he was rounding second base, and towards behind home plate after he had rounded third base.

The reasoning behind that? Well, since it was his 25th birthday, Verdugo had a select number of family and friends in attendance. His parents were seated up behind home plate — watching their son play at Fenway Park in-person for the first time since he was traded to the Red Sox last year — while his best friend and their family were seated up on the Green Monster.

“It was cool,” said Verdugo. “So if I hit the home run and I was pointing everywhere, that’s why. I was trying to make sure I got my mom, my dad, my best friend, and then also my best friend and his family in left.”

Verdugo followed up his first-inning home run by lacing a leadoff single in the fifth inning and coming in to score on Xander Bogaerts’ three-run home run as part of a 2-for-4 day at the plate.

Not only did Verdugo enjoy a successful day on an individual level, but he made his birthday that much better by playing a key role in the Sox’ blowout win over the Angels.

“Last thing we want to do is lose, especially on my birthday,” he said. “Just want to celebrate it even more, so the fact that we win, it’s already a positive. That’s the biggest thing: just a win. For me personally, in that first at-bat — going through a little skid — and have a good at-bat, get a pitch out over and drive it like that in front of my family that’s here and some friends, it was a very special moment for me. Very special.”

By notching his first multi-hit game since May 8, Verdugo credited his teammates and coaching staff for helping him stay on track with the power of positive affirmation while he was slumping.

“It’s a long year,” he admitted. “We all know. We go through ups and downs. Just to see that your guys — your teammates, your staff — they all care about you. They see that you’re going through something, but they want the best for you.”

As for why he was hitting just .226 in the month of May leading up to Saturday in the first place, Verdugo attributed that to “not staying back” on the ball while he was in the batter’s box.

“I wasn’t letting the ball travel,” said Verdugo. “And that’s the biggest thing for me. When I let the fastball travel and get deep on me, I can just use my hands, catch it deep and shoot it to left. And then it puts me in a better spot for the curveballs, the changeups, all the offspeed pitches.

“And I just felt like I was kind of in between,” he continued. “Whether I was trying to hit every pitch or I just wasn’t really locked in. It just felt like you were trying to force a result, and that’s the biggest thing I can say. You’ve got to go up there and win each pitch. Even if a pitcher gets a strike, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically swinging the next pitch. It’s just see the ball, let it get deep and good things will happen.”

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Hunter Renfroe hits 100th career home run: ‘He’s in a good place right now,’ Alex Cora says

For what was a slow start to begin his Red Sox career, Hunter Renfroe has been turning it around for the better as of late.

The latest instance of the outfielder’s offensive resurgence popped up in the Sox’ 11-7 win over the Tigers at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.

As part of a 3-for-4 evening at the plate, Renfroe ripped an RBI single in the first inning, laced a 108.5 mph ground-rule double in the third inning, and picked up the 100th home run of his big-league career in the fifth inning.

With one out in the bottom half of the fifth, the 29-year-old was matched up against Tigers reliever Buck Farmer, someone he had never faced before Tuesday.

On an 0-1, hanging 83 mph slider down the heart of the plate from Farmer, Renfroe crushed said pitch 362 feet into the second row of Green Monster seats in left field.

Renfroe’s homer gave the Red Sox a 9-3 lead, and as previously mentioned, it marked an important milestone for the Mississippi native.

“Any person that says it doesn’t is lying,” Renfroe said when asked if achieving career milestones is meaningful to him. “Anytime you can get a big milestone — 100th career home run, 200th career home run, 500th RBI — it means a lot. Those are not easily done.

“People that come in the league and stay in the league are the only guys that really get to do that,” he added. “And the guys that just come in and go out, it’s tough to get 100 home runs or 500 RBI or whatever. Any kind of milestone needs to be celebrated in baseball, and I think it’s awesome.”

The ball that Renfroe took out of the yard on Tuesday wound up back on the field. Not knowing how significant that ball was, Tigers left fielder Robbie Grossman threw it back into the stands upon retrieving it.

The fan who got the ball from Grossman could later be seen negotiating with Red Sox security, as the two sides were presumably working out a deal that would net Renfroe his 100th career home run ball in exchange for some signed memorabilia.

Renfroe was asked if he had the ball in his possession, as well as what he plans to do with it.

“I got it,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s the right one or not, but I got a ball. And they said they wrote ‘100 career homers.’ So I don’t know if it’s the right one or not, but we’ll see.”

He also told NESN’s Jahmai Webster that he plans on putting the ball on display in his office at home “for everybody to see.”

With Tuesday’s near-cycle performance in his back pocket, Renfroe has gotten his month of May off to a tremendous start. Through three games this month, the Mississippi State product is 6-for-12 (.500) with two homers, five RBI, and four runs scored.

His numbers on the season as a whole (.222/.275/.389) still might not look that impressive, but this recent turnaround is certainly an encouraging development for the Red Sox.

“He’s swinging the bat well,” Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday night. “It started in Texas, right? He hits the home run… he got two hits the opposite way, he put the ball in play. And today, he did the same thing. Even the out was a good swing going opposite field. So he’s in a good place right now. He looks like he’s having confidence, he’s seeing the ball better, and it seems like good things are going to happen.”

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez enjoys multi-homer game against Rangers even while dealing with migraine symptoms: ‘He’s on a mission,’ Alex Cora says

J.D. Martinez really wasn’t supposed to be in the Red Sox’ starting lineup for their game against the Rangers at Globe Life Field on Friday night.

After the team arrived in Arlington in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, Martinez’s head did not hit the pillow of his hotel room bed until about 4 a.m. local time.

Shortly after falling asleep, the 33-year-old awoke four hours later to what he described as “a crazy migraine” that prevented him from going back to bed.

“It’s some muscle or something that tightens up,” he said. “I don’t know why it happens, but it just tightens up and then I get this crazy migraine.”

Even while dealing with the migraine and the neck pain that came along with it, Martinez — with the help of the team’s athletic trainers — started at designated hitter for the Red Sox on Thursday and made it to the eighth inning before more symptoms arose.

“Right before my third at-bat, I was in the cage swinging, getting loose, and it just hit me,” Martinez recalled on Friday. “I was feeling terrible. Everything was so bright… It got to the point where I felt a little dizzy.”

Martinez wound up being pinch-hit for by Christian Arroyo in the eighth inning of Thursday’s loss and was on track to get a day off on Friday. But he started to feel better later on after getting some more work done on his neck, which led to him negotiating with Red Sox manager Alex Cora in order to be in the lineup come game time on Friday.

“I felt a lot better,” Martinez said. “So when I was leaving, Alex was just like, ‘Hey, I’m going to give you tomorrow.’ I was like, ‘No, no, no, no, no. I’ll be fine.’ He was like, ‘No, take a day.’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m in. I’ll be fine. I’ll let you know tomorrow if anything.'”

Martinez woke up Friday morning still experiencing some discomfort, and after receiving more treatment from trainers, he made sure to let Cora know he was good to go.

“In that situation, it’s either you feel OK or you don’t,” Cora said in regards to Martinez. “Physically, he doesn’t need [a day off], so you got to trust him. He came into the office, he told me last night he should be OK. This morning, he texted me right away, ‘I’m good to go.’ And he was good to go.”

The Red Sox benefitted from having Martinez in their lineup on Friday, and the trust between player and manager was a catalyst for that.

“Alex always has a good feel with all that stuff,” said Martinez. “He knows I want to be in there everyday as much as I can.”

In his 25th start of the season on Friday, the Sox slugger broke out of a 2-for-14 rut by going 3-for-4 with a pair of home runs, four RBI, and two runs scored, marking his second multi-homer game of the season already as part of a 6-1 win over the Rangers.

On the 2021 campaign as a whole, Martinez is now slashing an impressive .351/.430/.745 with a league-leading nine home runs and 25 RBI through his first 107 plate appearances of the year.

The fact that Martinez is off to this hot a start is certainly encouraging after the down season he had in 2020, but Cora was hesitant to pin all those struggles last year on the lack of access to video alone.

“I think it’s more about his routine, what he can do,” said Cora. “This is a guy that it’s an all-day process with his swing. He feels better physically. He’s in a better place with his mechanics… Now, he’s in a good place, he’s doing a great job. It’s not only on the field what he’s doing, it’s in the cage, talking to players.”

Cora also implied that Martinez is out to prove that his 2020 was a fluke and he is still indeed one of the best hitters in baseball. One month into the season, and Martinez is doing just that.

“He’s on a mission,” Cora said. “He’s on a mission.”

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora predicted Xander Bogaerts would hit first home run of season Tuesday night: ‘You talking about me hitting a home run? I don’t have a home run at all’

Xander Bogaerts’ first home run of the season proved to be the difference maker in the Red Sox’ 4-2 victory over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.

With no outs and two runners on in the bottom half of the fourth, Bogaerts came to the plate for a second time after already doubling in his first at-bat against tough left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu two innings prior.

That double was actually more of a gift than anything considering the way it was played by Blue Jays left field Lourdes Gurriel Jr., but Bogaerts made sure to make his second hit of the night count.

On a 1-2, 91 mph slider from Ryu that was on the inner half of the plate, the 28-year-old was able to get his hands in front of the ball and wound up depositing said pitch 408 feet into the second row of Green Monster seats in left-center field. Per Baseball Savant, the ball left Bogaerts’ bat at a blistering 102.1 mph.

Bogaerts’ three-run blast put the Sox up 3-1 and would prove to be instrumental in the club’s 4-2 win over Toronto to improve to 12-6 on the young season.

“They needed a shutdown inning. They didn’t get it,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said in regards to the impact of Bogaerts’ homer. “It was a good swing. That was a good effort against a good pitcher. That guy, he’s very tough. He’s got a good breaking ball, a good changeup. But we hung in there with him and we were able to score some runs.”

The fact that Bogaerts was able to hit a home run on a pitch that was relatively up and in was impressive. There’s no doubt about that. With that being said, though, that ability is something the three-time Silver Slugger Award winner has regularly put on display over the years. Just ask his longtime teammate — and Tuesday’s starter — Eduardo Rodriguez.

“I’ve been here, what? Like six seasons, I think. And I’ve been seeing him hitting balls like nobody can hit it,” Rodriguez said of the Aruban-born shortstop. “I know he’s a really special guy. I can’t even explain to you how good he is. I’ve been watching him too much. Hitting balls out of the ballpark, both sides of the field, middle of the field. I know every time he steps up to the plate something good is going to happen. That’s how special he is.

“I love the way he plays all the time, the way he goes up there,” added Rodriguez. “After he hit that homer, he comes to me and says, ‘I got you. Go out there now and do your thing.’ That’s something that I really appreciate from him every time I’m pitching and he’s doing things like that.”

Rodriguez said he expects 35 home runs out of Bogaerts this season, but Bogaerts himself was just happy to get the first one out of the way, which is something Cora actually foresaw moments before it happened in the bottom of the fourth on Tuesday.

“I think that whole inning, Alex Cora predicted, to be honest with you,” Bogaerts recalled during his postgame media availability. “I remember him saying that the guy’s going to get a hit, J.D. [Martinez] is going to get a hit, and I’m going to hit a two-run homer. So he kind of predicted that whole inning to be honest. You guys got to see what’s up with AC and those predictions with his mind and stuff like that.

“I was like, ‘You talking about me hitting a home run? I don’t have a home run at all,'” joked Bogaerts. “And he’s talking about me hitting a homer.”

Following a 2-for-4 showing at the plate with two extra-base hits on Tuesday, Bogaerts is now slashing a scorching .393/.439/.557 to go along with that one homer and seven RBI through his first 16 games of the year.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox Rookie Bobby Dalbec Has Call of Duty To Thank for Tight Relationship With J.D. Martinez

J.D. Martinez is leaning towards not opting out of his current contract and remaining with the Red Sox for the 2021 season. The 33-year-old slugger made that much clear when speaking to reporters via Zoom on Friday.

While alluding to the notion that he will remain with the Sox next year, Martinez also had some kind words for a teammate who could emerge as a legitimate major-league slugger himself. That teammate’s name? Bobby Dalbec.

“He’s definitely got some tools,” Martinez said of the 25-year-old rookie. “He’s a really good kid, always asking questions, very humble, very quiet. He’s got a lot of power. I could see him being an impact [bat] in this lineup for the future, definitely sticking around.”

After making his big-league debut at the end of August, Dalbec came into Saturday with a .274/.361/.603 slash line to go along with seven home runs and 14 RBI through 21 games and 83 plate appearances thus far.

In those 83 plate appearances, the University of Arizona product has struck out 43.4% of the time, which according to FanGraphs is the highest rate among American League rookies who have accrued at least 80 trips to the plate. Getting that strikeout rate down is something Dalbec will need to improve upon as he prepares for his first full major-league season, and Martinez knows that.

“He’s going to have to make adjustments,” Martinez added. “I know he is, just because that’s the league. Once this league makes adjustments on you, that’s the biggest test, if the hitter can make the adjustment back. That’s when you find out, to me personally, if guys can stick around in the big leagues or not.”

Despite punching out at a rather high clip, Dalbec still manages to get on base frequently, as his walk rate (10.8%) and on-base percentage (.361) ranks fifth among AL rookies with 80 or more PAs this season.

“Talent-wise, I don’t see any reason why [Dalbec] can’t be an impact bat,” said Martinez. “You see what he’s been able to do in a short period of time.”

In his brief stint with Boston since his promotion on August 30, Dalbec has made sure to absorb as much useful information from veterans like Martinez, which is something he started doing while at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2019.

“We always talk,” Martinez said in regards to his relationship with Dalbec. “We got close because we used to play Call of Duty together. We used to play Zombies on Call of Duty all the time… and he’d always ask me questions while we played video games. Once he came up here, or even when he was in Triple-A, he would text me about stuff he was struggling with, certain pitchers, certain pitch types, he would talk to me. Up here, it’s been kind of the same thing. He comes to me about pitchers all the time and what I think about certain moves, what I think about certain ideas.”

If Martinez does indeed remain with the Red Sox going into the 2021 campaign, how he interacts with and/or mentors Dalbec certainly could be something to keep an eye on as soon as spring training begins in February.

Former Red Sox Star Mookie Betts Goes Deep Three Times for Dodgers, Becomes Third Player in Major-League History With Six Career Three-Homer Games

Hours after the Red Sox suffered their most embarrassing loss of the season to this point, Mookie Betts put together his best offensive outing for the Dodgers out in Los Angeles.

Facing off against the Padres at Chavez Ravine Thursday night, the former Sox star belted three home runs as part of a four-hit, five-RBI performance in an eventual 11-2 win for his side.

In crushing three homers, which came in the second, fourth, and fifth innings, Betts became just the third player in major-league history with SIX career three-home run games under his belt. The other two? Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa.

He also became the first player to hit three home runs within a game’s first five innings on three separate occasions.

At just 27 years old, Betts has already compiled 17 career multi-homer games in his relatively young career, with Thursday’s showing being his first as a member of the Dodgers.

“It’s obviously a great feeling to know you can go up and just hit and not worry about the rest of it,” Betts said during his postgame media availability. “These times don’t happen very often, so you just enjoy it while it’s here.”

It has been a little more than six months since the Red Sox traded Betts to Los Angeles and a little more than three weeks since the four-time All-Star inked a record-setting 12-year, $365 million extension with his new club to remain in southern California for the foreseeable future.

They say time heals all wounds, but as long as Betts continues to dazzle with the Dodgers, I do not think Red Sox fans are going to have an easy time of things accepting this new reality, especially when their team will likely finish the year with one of the worst records in the American League.

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo on Crushing First Home Run of Season With New Team: ‘To Finally Be Able to Help Out and Get a Couple Runs for Us, It’s Huge’

Going into Wednesday night, Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo was without a home run or RBI through his first nine games and 30 plate appearances with his new team.

That all changed against Rays left-hander Ryan Yarbrough in the fourth inning of an eventual 5-0 win for Boston at Tropicana Field to close out a seven-game road trip.

After striking out on eight pitches in his first at-bat against the Rays starter, Verdugo come to the plate for a second time with two outs and a runner on first following a Michael Chavis single.

On the second pitch he saw in his second at-bat against Yarbrough, which was nearly identical to the first’s location, the 24-year-old unloaded on an 0-1, 71 mph curveball at the bottom of the zone and deposited it 352 feet to the right field seats for his first home run of 2020 and his first in a Red Sox uniform. It also gave his side an early two-run lead.

“It felt amazing, man,” Verdugo said of his homer during his postgame media availability. “It’s pretty obvious a lot of us are going through it right now trying to find our swings. There’s a lot of new things in baseball, not being able to see the videos until after the games and all that. Usually, the in-game adjustments have been hard. It felt really good to finally be able to stay on one, to stay through it and get one out.”

Per Statcast, Verdugo’s two-run blast had an Expected Batting Average (xBA) of .220, so it wasn’t exactly barreled, per se, but it was still encouraging to see him make relatively hard contact nonetheless. His manager, Ron Roenicke felt that way as well.

“He was pretty happy, I’ll tell you that, when he came to the dugout,” said the Sox skipper. “It was huge. At the time, it was huge. I thought Yarbrough was throwing the ball fantastic and the next thing you know, we’ve got two runs on the board. The players know it, they feel what’s going on. To get that lead, I’m sure Dugie felt pretty good about that.”

Indeed, Verdugo did feel pretty good about getting his first one out of here since coming over from the Dodgers in February. More importantly, he was happy it contributed to a victory.

“I think the biggest thing for me was just to help the team out,” Verdugo said. “It was a tie game, so just to get up there and give us a 2-0 lead, give the pitcher and everybody a little breath. Like, ‘Hey, alright, we’ve got some room to work.’ That was my biggest part. I came here to contribute. I’ve played the game hard and I want to contribute in everything that I do. To finally be able to help out and get a couple runs for us, it’s huge.”

Following Wednesday’s impressive performance, Verdugo is showing why he should be starting more against left-handed starters, especially when the likes of Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. are mired in slumps.

While with Los Angeles for parts of the previous three seasons, the left-handed hitting Arizona native slashed .306/.333/.452 slash line in 133 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers, earning the reputation of being a “reverse splits” guy.

Thus far with the Red Sox, Verdugo now owns an OPS of 1.009 through his first 16 plate appearances against southpaws this year, again proving that he should be playing more. Even still, the outfielder understands that finding playing time for everyone is no easy task.

“I always mess around with that,” Verdugo said with a smile. “When I’m not in there against a lefty, I’m like, ‘Hey, Ron, just so you know, man, I can hit ‘em.’ I think he knows it, too. I think he also knows when players are pressing. He’s doing his job, he’s doing what he has to do. I take a lot of pride against lefties.”

Also, it’s probably about time Verdugo moves up in the lineup, too. Just a thought.