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.

 

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 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’ Alex Verdugo Dealing With Stress Fracture in Lower Back

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.