Alex Verdugo has some big shoes to fill. On Saturday, he looked comfortable in those shoes.
The 24-year-old outfielder, who was one of three players that the Red Sox acquired in the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers, recorded three hits and scored a run in his Red Sox debut.
Verdugo’s first hit came in the fourth inning when he singled on a line drive hit to left field off of Orioles starter Alex Cobb and asked to keep the ball he hit.
“I just wanted to get that ball, make sure I had that, just a little special token for me,” Verdugo told reporters after the game.
He was left stranded after Cobb retired the next two batters to end the inning.
Verdugo made his way home the next time around. After hitting a single to right field off Paul Fry, Verdugo eventually moved to third and later scored when Kevin Plawecki hit a single to cut the Orioles’ lead to 5-2 in the sixth inning.
While that was the last run the Red Sox would score in their 7-2 loss, Verdugo still made his way on base in the eighth inning when he hit a single to center. He moved up to second base on a wild pitch but was left stranded after Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out and Plawecki lined out to end the inning.
His hit in the eighth inning capped his three-hit day, which was also his first game since the beginning of August last year when oblique and back injuries caused him to miss the rest of the Dodgers season.
Verdugo expressed his happiness to just being able to play baseball again after such a long wait.
“It was a long time,” Verdugo said. “It was definitely a long fight and a long way back. There were a lot of ups and downs during the rehab. Even in this summer camp, spring training, there was just grinding, working through my swing, working through getting my back muscles, working through getting every back to opening up and firing at game speed. Today, just seeing another team, seeing someone else’s jersey out there gives you that adrenaline to kind of lock it back in.”
Verdugo’s performance was one of the very few things the Sox could take from their loss, and manager Ron Roenicke took the opportunity to praise the youngster.
“You saw [how good Verdugo could be] today,” Roenicke told reporters after the game. “Stayed inside the ball and got hits. He was really happy with his day, how he swung. And then defensively, we think he’s a good defender. He came and made the nice catch coming in, and he throws the ball well. I think his total game is going to be there. It was nice to see all those hits today to get him going.”
Before the ninth inning began, Verdugo got involved in a confrontation with a couple of umpires and was seen on camera having to be cooled down by coaches and teammates at one point.
Need to know more about this… pic.twitter.com/mHIYp3dlit
— Dan O’Mara (@Dan_OMara) July 25, 2020
He said it stemmed from him hanging around third base to talk to third base coach Carlos Febles during a pitching change in the eighth inning.
“It was just a little miscommunication, that was really it,” Verdugo said. ” … We were talking just a little bit too long and I kind of forgot that I was at second, so I didn’t go to second. And the umpire was kind of just telling me to go back to second and make sure I don’t do that again or try to get a free base. We had a little back-and-forth.”
Verdugo added that it wasn’t that big of a deal.
“At the end of the day I think we’re all good,” Verdugo said “it’s baseball, heat of the moment, but we’re out there working our butts off trying our hardest. And hey, sometimes emotions are going to flare up a little bit.”
“Man, I could have stolen that bag if I wanted it that bad,” Verdugo later quipped.
Quote of the day from Alex Verdugo: ‘Man, I could have stolen that bag if I wanted it that bad.’ pic.twitter.com/RVCpNsjPjE
— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) July 25, 2020
With the Orioles starting lefty Wade LeBlanc, it is unknown whether or not Verdugo will be in the starting lineup for Sunday’s game. Verdugo was not in the starting lineup in Friday’s game when southpaw Tommy Milone was the Orioles’ starter. Roenicke left the door open for Verdugo to start on Sunday.
“Things definitely could change Sunday when we face our next left-hander,” Roenicke told reporters prior to Friday’s game.