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.

 

Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts Says It Would ‘Be Hard’ to Have All MLB Games Played in One City This Season If Baseball Does Return

With no baseball to be played for the time being while the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts has had more time on his hands recently, and he spent some of that time talking to GQ’s Alex Shultz last week.

Discussing a wide range of topics, the two-time All-Star went into depth on what he’s been doing in his native Aruba since Red Sox players and staff went back to their homes last month.

“I don’t wake up at 8 AM doing workouts no more because we don’t have a timetable for returning,” he said when describing what the average day has looked for him recently. “I usually wake up and go to my PlayStation right away, playing lots of FIFA and Fortnite. Then I have breakfast, maybe some eggs or cereal, and do a workout afterwards in the afternoon. I don’t have much to do. If it’s not a workout or PlayStation, I’m playing dominoes with my buddies. Here in Aruba, they want you to social distance, so no more than four people in a group.”

Bogaerts emphasized how he is just trying to maintain right now, telling Shultz that “This is a crazy time and we don’t know if we’re even going to have a season. I don’t want to be the one who’s not doing anything, and then they tell you the season is starting and I’m so far behind. It’s really tough mentally to try and stay in shape.”

To stay in shape, Bogaerts said that he tries to throw with his twin brother Jair everyday in addition to going to the beach, but “in Aruba, you can only go [to the beach] if it’s for workouts. No one can go to chill. Makes the beach a little more boring. But I do some running drills that strengthen your legs and lower body.”

The 27-year-old is coming off a breakout campaign in 2019 in which he finished fifth in American League MVP voting. He accredited that breakout to gaining more experience last season, and how in “the year prior, we had some coaching changes that helped unpack some stuff that I had hidden. It made me become a much better player. All of my hitting coaches have had good, different philosophies, but this one kind of took me to another level.”

In regards to holding out hope for there to be a baseball season in 2020, Bogaerts added that it can be hard to focus at times while working out because there is no set date for a return yet.

Said Bogaerts, “In the offseason, you work out and look forward to February reporting day. You know you have to be ready for that specific day. Now, you don’t have anything like that. We’ll have to wait and see when the experts say it’s the right time to play.”

Another factor in all that uncertainty also includes where games will be played in 2020 if baseball does indeed return.

Several proposals–such as playing games in Arizona, Florida, or even Texas–have been thrown out there, but nothing is definite nor agreed upon at this point in time.

As an international player signed out of Aruba in August 2009, Bogaerts has grown accustomed to being away from his family back home for months at a time. However, he understands that it would be more challenging for American-born players to make such a sacrifice if teams play all their games in one city in 2020.

“That’s going to be hard,” Bogaerts said of the proposed neutral location plan. “I don’t know how they would do that.”

Since signing a six-year, $120 million extension with Boston last April, Bogaerts has emerged as a veteran presence and a leader in the Red Sox clubhouse. It would be nice to see him build on a successful 2019 season sometime this year. We’ll have to wait and see on that, though.

To read Bogaerts’ full interview with GQ, click here.

To follow Bogaerts on Instagram, click here.

Red Sox Interim Manager Ron Roenicke on Not Having Any Games to Manage in Late April: ‘This Is so Strange’

In an ideal world, Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke would presumably be in his Boston home right about now, preparing for his team’s 26th game of the season against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

Instead, the coronavirus pandemic that has halted the sports world has led the baseball lifer to have no games to coach or manage at a point in time he would typically be doing so.

“I’ve been through some strikes, some lockouts, some crazy late starts in spring training, but nothing like this” Roenicke told NESN’s Tom Caron in a TV interview Tuesday. “This is so strange. I wake up every morning knowing and know I should be going to the ballpark and I’m at home. That’s just really weird.”

Roenicke was officially named interim manager by Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom on February 11th, so the 63-year-old had a little more than a month to make preparations for the 2020 campaign before Major League Baseball suspended spring training and delayed the start of the season on March 12th.

From that point, Red Sox players, coaches, and staff, for the most part, have all left the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers and returned to their respective homes.

Roenicke, a California native, still has to communicate with his players though, and that has been a lot easier to do now thanks to modern technology.

“With the players, it’s [mostly] texting and phone calls,” Roenicke told Caron. “I know Chaim and [GM Brian O’Halloran] are reaching out to some guys with some things on what’s going on. It’s a lot of text messaging. It’s hard for players also to be sitting at home during this time. Anytime we can be with them in a text or phone call, it’s helpful for them just sitting and wondering what’s going on.”

Although there is no set date for the start of the 2020 MLB season, Roenicke still believes three to four weeks is all his players need to ramp things back up.

“I don’t think we need to go longer than that,” the interim skipper said of the three to four week training period. “If MLB can give us a little bit of a heads up so guys can start getting at it more at their home or wherever they are, it certainly would help to speed this thing up.

“It’s the starting pitching, trying to get them stretched out,” said Roenicke. “If we can get those starters to start throwing some bullpens, even if they’re at home. Some up-downs. And we start up this thing, we won’t need those 3-4 weeks. It will shrink down, and if we can get them maybe three starts or something in a spring….That’s what some of the conversation we had with the commissioner, the managers trying to figure out what we can do and how we can get these starters back in shape.”

Per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, “Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke for one hour [Friday] morning with major-league managers” in which he “offered no specifics on how the season might begin.” That’s the conversation Roenicke was referencing.

Speaking of Manfred, Roenicke, like seemingly everyone else in the Red Sox organization, still does not know when the results of the league’s investigation into the 2018 team will be released.

“I don’t know,” Roenicke said. “I think there’s so many other things that I’m thinking about and just trying to think about getting the season started again. And also obviously concerned about what’s going on in the country with the jobs and with people losing their lives and the people that are sick. These things go on. Sometimes they’re easy for some people and sometimes they last for 4-6 weeks. So, hopefully we can get this controlled.”

That’s the same sort of sentiment Bloom echoed in an interview with WEEI last week, when he said, “It is obviously frustrating that we don’t have that outcome yet. But with what is going on in the last month I think it is understandable. I know the commissioner was on a timetable doing everything he could to wrap it up before the season. Sometime early to mid-March, the coronavirus took over pretty much of every ounce of everybody’s available time and energy. I think we’re still at that stage. We are hopeful at some point when everybody gets a chance to come up for air…I know the commissioner has said the investigation is complete and it’s a question of getting into the report. We’re hopeful there is time to do that so we can all see the results and move forward. I think you have to cut everyone some slack given our industry and everybody has been dealing with something we really haven’t faced before, something for which there is no road map and understandably it has dominated everyone’s attention for the last month or so.”

To watch the full interview between Caron and Roenicke, click here.

Red Sox Interim Manager Ron Roenicke: Alex Verdugo’s Rehab From Stress Fracture Slowed by Coronavirus Shutdown

Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo has not been able to make as much progress in his rehab as the team was hoping for, according to interim manager Ron Roenicke, who, along with piching coach Dave Bush spoke with reporters in a Zoom call on Tuesday.

Verdugo, who is working his way back from a stress fracture in his lower back, has not been able to progress as much as the Red Sox were hoping for mainly due to the fact that the club had to shut down its facilities in Fort Myers in late March after a minor-leaguer tested positive for COVID-19.

“Unfortunately with the shutdown of the camp in JetBlue, [Verdugoo] hasn’t been able to go and continually progress probably as fast as we’d like him to,” Roenicke said Tuesday. “He is swinging and doing all the things he needs to do. Unfortunately with the shutdown there, we’re having to go basically see him. And then it makes it more difficult for him to work out.”

The Red Sox acquired the 23-year-old outfielder along with prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong from the Dodgers in February in the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles.

Upon Verdugo’s arrival to the Fenway South complex two months ago, it was revealed by Roenicke that the Arizona native did indeed have a stress fracture in his lower back.

A plan for Verdugo to work his way back from that ailment was laid out at that time, but it would appear that the league-wide, coronavirus-induced shutdown has since hindered that plan.

Still, Verdugo began taking full swings in March and Roenicke was impressed with his arm strength. The interim manager seems hopeful that if there is Major League Baseball to be played in 2020, Verdugo’s ” going to be able to fit in along with the other guys and maybe be ready for us” by the time spring training activities would resume.

In the interim, Verdugo has remained in Florida, as he believed it was the best place for him to continue with his rehabilitation. He’s posted videos of himself swinging a bat on Instagram as recently as last Thursday and may be in line for another MRI in the near future to make sure that the stress fracture is completely healed before he begins playing in games again.

Red Sox Add Yairo Muñoz to Spring Training Roster, Option Four Pitchers to Minor-League Camp

The Red Sox officially announced the signing of former Cardinals utilityman Yairo Munoz on a minor-league deal on Thursday. The 25-year-old has been added to Boston’s spring training roster as a non-roster invitee and will likely begin the year with Triple-A Pawtucket once the 2020 season does begin.

In a series of other moves, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom also announced that Colten Brewer and three pitchers picked up over the course of the offseason — Matt Hall, Chris Mazza, and Jeffrey Springs– had been optioned to minor-league rosters.

Hall and Mazza were both optioned to High-A Salem, while Brewer was optioned to Double-A Portland and Springs was optioned to Pawtucket.

Brewer and Mazza both seemed like potential options to serve as an opener for the Sox this season, but it looks like they’ll start the year in the minors once baseball does resume, although I doubt it will be at the levels they were optioned to on Thursday.

Hall and Springs, meanwhile, were picked up via a pair of trades over the winter. The two left-handers appeared in a total of 41 major-league games last year with the Tigers and Rangers respectively.

With these moves, the Red Sox now have 43 players at major-league camp, 16 of which are pitchers.

 

Red Sox Minor-Leaguer Tests Positive for COVID-19, Club Shuts Down Fenway South Complex for at Least Two Weeks

A Red Sox minor-league player has tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced Tuesday night.

Per a team spokesman, that player tested positive and received the results of the test on Monday, eight days after he had last been at the Red Sox’ facility in Fort Myers.

That player is now recovering and “doing well” at home, and the Red Sox believe that it is “more likely” he contracted COVID-19 upon departing from Fort Myers last week.

With this news though, the Fenway South complex will now be shut down for at least the next two weeks, effective immediately. During that time, the facility, JetBlue Park included, will undergo a deep cleaning.

Some Red Sox players were still using the facilities at Fenway South to continue their workouts even after spring training was suspended by Major League Baseball. Those players will now have to find somewhere else to work out.

The Red Sox also advised any player or staff member who came into contact with the aforementioned minor-leaguer who tested positive for the virus to self-quarantine for the next two weeks.

Although this Red Sox minor-leaguer has yet to be identified, he is now the third known professional baseball player to test positive for COVID-19 after two Yankees minor-leaguers tested positive earlier in the month.

Red Sox Acquire Catcher Jhonny Pereda From Cubs to Complete Travis Lakins Trade

The Red Sox have acquired minor-league catcher Jhonny Pereda from the Cubs to complete the trade that sent right-hander Travis Lakins to Chicago back in January. The club made the transaction official earlier Monday.

Pereda, who turns 24 in April, was originally signed by the Cubs as an international free agent out of Venezuela in April 2013.

In 98 games with Double-A Tennessee last year, the backstop slashed .241/.336/.305 with two home runs and 39 RBI. He was also the recipient of the 2019 Minor League Rawlings Gold Glove Award for catcher, as he threw out 44 of the 132 (33.3%) of the runners who attempted to steal against him last year.

A right-handed hitter, Pereda also played eight games at first base in 2019 as well as two games at third base in 2017.

As for Lakins, the 25-year-old was dealt to the Cubs in January in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later. Pereda turned out to be that PTBNL, but Lakins has since been waived by Chicago and claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles.

Red Sox Option Left-Hander Josh Osich to Triple-A Pawtucket

In their first roster move since Major League Baseball suspended spring training, the Red Sox have optioned left-hander Josh Osich to Triple-A Pawtucket. The club made the transaction official earlier Thursday.

Osich, 31, was originally claimed off waivers from the White Sox last October in what was Chaim Bloom’s first move as Boston’s chief baseball officer.

Coming off a year in which he posted a 4.66 ERA and .242 batting average against over 57 appearances and 67 2/3 innings of work for Chicago, Osich has had quite the busy offseason, as he was claimed by Boston in late October, then non-tendered in early December before coming back on a split contract two days later.

The Idaho native had surrendered just one earned run on three hits, four walks, and six strikeouts through his first four outings and 4 2/3 innings of the spring, but he will not make the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster, whenever Opening Day may be.

With this move, the Sox technically now have 46 players at major league camp.

Red Sox’ Chris Sale to Undergo Tommy John Surgery

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale will undergo Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, the team officially announced Thursday.

This news comes one day after it was reported by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier that Sale had recently begun another throwing program in Fort Myers nearly three weeks after throwing to live hitters for the first time since last year at the beginning of the month.

The day after throwing that live bullpen session, Sale began to feel discomfort in the same left elbow he had issues with in 2019, and the results of his MRI revealed a flexor tendon strain. Those results were sent over to esteemed sports medicine specialists Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Neil ElAttrache, but neither doctor recommended surgery at the time and instead prescribed Sale with rest since his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) was “unchanged”, per interim manager Ron Roenicke.

While speaking with reporters in a conference call on Thursday, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom explained that Sale began throwing again last Friday, then threw a light session on Sunday, but had to be shut down while throwing outside on Tuesday due to the pain he felt in that elbow. That’s how the decision for the left-hander to go under the knife was reached.

According to Bloom, the date for Sale’s surgery has not yet been set, but he does “expect it to be soon, in the fairly near future.”

The recovery time for a pitcher undergoing Tommy John surgery is typically anywhere between 12 to 15 months, so depending on when Sale does have it, he will miss the entirety of the 2020 season, whenever that starts, as well as some time in 2021.

Sale, who turns 31 later this month, is set to earn $30 million this season in the first year of the five-year, $145 million contract extension he signed with Boston last March.

The Florida native missed the final six weeks of the 2019 campaign due to inflammation in his left elbow and dealt with a bout of pneumonia right around the time camp broke this year.

Without Sale in their plans, the Red Sox’ starting rotation will be composed of Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez. Outside of those three, Ryan Weber had looked solid in his handful of spring starts, while Roenicke also mentioned Brian Johnson and an opener as potential rotation options on Thursday.

“”It’s never just about one season. We’re always going to make sure we’ll bolster our long-term outlook as well,” Bloom said in regard to this year’s Red Sox. “Losing Chris for 2020 isn’t going to make our task any easier.”

Red Sox Should Wear Red Alternate Jerseys on the Road in 2020

When baseball does finally return this year, the Red Sox should try something new and wear their red alternate jerseys on the road. It would look something like this:

(Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

I say this because before spring training games were suspended last week, the Sox wore their red tops with their grey pants for every single game away from JetBlue Park, and quite honestly, I thought it was a sharp look.

From what I recall, I don’t think the Red Sox have ever wore their red tops on the road during the regular season or postseason. That look is typically reserved for Friday night home games or a doubleheader at Fenway Park.

The same goes for the navy blue tops as well in that they are reserved for Friday night games on the road.

But, as recently as the 2018 postseason, that pattern seemed to cease under former manager Alex Cora, who appeared to let whoever that day’s starting pitcher was choose which jersey to wear. A prime example of this is how Eduardo Rodriguez went with the red or blue tops for the majority of the 34 starts he made last year.

Another factor here is that the red tops the Red Sox wore during spring training this year included the player’s last names on the back unlike the alternate home jerseys they have worn in years past.

That may be the case becuase Nike is the new uniform provider for Major League Baseball, but according to MLBShop.com, it looks like the Sox’ red alternates will not include last names once again.

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They could still wear these at home, but why not go with the spring training version for regular season games on the road in 2020? Sure, the front of the jersey would read ‘Red Sox’ opposed to ‘Boston’, but in today’s day and age, I don’t think that matters as much anymore.

Wearing red on the road would provide the Red Sox with a new look, which makes perfect sense since the 2020 team will surely be deemed ‘the new-look Red Sox’ to at least begin the season.