New Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo has a stress fracture in his lower back and his status for Opening Day is up in the air, according to interim manager Ron Roenicke.
“It takes a lot of time to heal,” Roenicke said of Verdugo’s injury earlier Saturday. “It’s an injury that’s fairly common in baseball because it’s a rotation issue. Our trainers are familiar with it. We’ll take him as the steps come — not only what the images show, but his response to things.”
One of three players acquired in the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers earlier in the week, Verdugo missed the final two months of the 2019 season due to back and oblique issues and he himself believes it stemmed from playing on Tropicana Field’s artificial surface back in May.
The Red Sox knew of the 23-year-old’s medical history ahead of the trade’s completion, and it appears that a plan to take things slowly may already be in place.
Verdugo mentioned this plan in his first session with reporters at Fenway South on Saturday, saying that, “We have something we can draw out. The exact time frame of it, whether it’s to be ready for the start of the season or slightly after, we’re not really sure. We’re not trying to rush that. We don’t want to give people or give fans a false hope or just even a deadline we miss again.”
Because he is under team control through 2024, the Red Sox do not have any incentive to rush their new outfielder into things this year and potentially risk further injury.
“We’re going to take our time on this,” Verdugo said. “Make sure that I’m right so that way when I am playing and I’m able to be in Boston, it’s the whole year and it’s continuous that we don’t have any setbacks or anything like that.”
When healthy, the Arizona native could prove to be a tremendous asset to a new-look Red Sox outfield that also brought in ex-Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar on a one-year deal on Friday.
With that added bonus of having someone like Pillar available to potentially play all three outfield positions, that proves even further why the Sox should not rush things with Verdugo.
“To be honest, if everything goes right, (Verdugo) still may not be ready for Opening Day,” Roenicke added Saturday. “We need him to be healthy to see what kind of player we have and the kind of player he knows he is.”
Full-squad workouts for the Red Sox begin on Monday, while exhibition games begin on Friday. Verdugo will presumably not see much action as he continues to rehab from his stress fracture.