Red Sox News: Alex Verdugo on the path to recovery from stress fracture

The Boston Red Sox acquired Alex Verdugo from the Los Angeles Dodgers via their blockbuster trade this winter, unfortunately, he wasn’t healthy on arrival.

The baseball world was shocked when the news broke that the Boston Red Sox would be shipping off perennial All-Star Mookie Betts to the Dodgers for a small haul of prospects. One of those players that made their way back to Boston in the deal was right fielder Alex Verdugo.

Though the other members of the deal will be spending some time in the minors, Verdugo is Major League ready and will be on the 40-man roster when the season begins. Despite his talent and promise, the outfielder came to the Red Sox with a stress fracture in his back which hindered his spring. He was on the mend when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the MLB to shut down spring training, slowing his recovery.

Earlier this week, interim Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke spoke to the media via Zoom conference call and gave an update on Verdugo’s health.

“Unfortunately with the shutdown of the camp in JetBlue, he hasn’t been able to go and continually progress probably as fast as we’d like him to,” Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke said on a Zoom call Tuesday.

Getting Verdugo healthy will be incredibly important to Boston’s success in 2020 if there is a 2020. There’s no replacing a player the caliber of Betts, that’s just the honest truth. However, there are some positives in Verdugo’s game that can lessen the blow for the Red Sox. Though he’s primarily a centerfielder, he spent some time in both right and left field.

That versatility can give Roenicke some leeway in moving his outfield pieces around to give players off days or alter his game strategy. Being another lefty in the Red Sox arsenal will also give Verdugo his chances as he’ll most likely split his time in right with fellow newcomer, Kevin Pillar.

Another benefit of adding Verdugo to the lineup is his age. The talented outfielder will be turning 24 next month and Boston has him under control until 2025. Having that kind of time with a player is nothing but beneficial as he can either develop into a franchise player or become one hell of a bargaining chip on the trade block.

During his first full season with the Dodgers in 2019 Verdugo posted a .294/.342/.475/.817 with 12 homers and 44 RBI. Not bad numbers for a guy that only had a few cups of coffee in the big leagues before last year. Again, he may not be at Betts’ level now, but there’s just enough promise and talent to where he may have a chance of approaching it.

“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.”

As of now, Verdugo has been taking some cuts at the dish and is able to run, which is a very good sign. Being a power hitter doesn’t mix well with back injuries, like oil and water. They often go hand-in-hand but in the worst way possible. Just look at how much time Boston’s power hitters have missed recently. J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland, and the recently retired Steve Pearce all suffered due to aching backs last year.

The benefit Verdugo has in that area is that his age will lend itself to a better chance at healing. If he’s comfortably swinging and moving in the field, that is a sign I’m happy to see. There’s no timetable on when this season may get started and his recovery is one of the few things that will benefit from the delay.

“I think by the time we get back and train again … I would think he’s going to be able to fit in along with the other guys and maybe be ready for us,” Roenicke said.

Having a young power-hitter in the outfield will be a nice refresher for the Red Sox and he could balance out the sometimes offensively absent Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. It could also light a fire under the rest of Boston’s outfield, especially with JBJ heading for free agency next winter. Adding fresh blood can bring new life to a stagnant situation, and Verdugo offers that.

His rehab and recovery may have stalled due to not being able to meet with his coaches and trainers but he’s still showing promising signs. If the Red Sox can get Verdugo as healthy as possible for whatever this season might look like, then he can be an asset. He also won’t be called upon to play every game with Pillar also on the roster. I for one would like to see what a healthy Alex Verdugo can do within the confines of Fenway Park.