Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo says he’s 100% and ready for 2020

FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Alex Verdugo #99 of the Boston Red Sox poses for a portrait during team photo day on February 19, 2020 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Alex Verdugo #99 of the Boston Red Sox poses for a portrait during team photo day on February 19, 2020 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox received some promising players in their trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers this winter, one of which is finally at full strength.

What a strange and wild ride this offseason has been for the Boston Red Sox. I’m still considering it the offseason since we haven’t seen a single meaningful inning played. The MLB’s investigation into the 2018 season returned nothing of real consequence, while Boston’s ace had to get Tommy John. Things got off on the wrong foot with the trade of Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers, but things have a chance to rebound for Boston.

The Red Sox received three promising players in return for Betts and Price as Boston is now the home of Alex Verdugo, Connor Wong, and Jeter Downs. Wong and Downs will be spending their foreseeable future in the minors but have strong chances of seeing Major League ball soon. Verdugo, on the other hand, will be tasked with replacing Betts in right field and filling his MVP sized shoes.

There was a red flag with Verdugo as he made his way East and I don’t mean the whispers of character flaws. The young outfielder is already dealing with the back issues that will eventually present itself in a power hitter. He came to Boston still dealing with a stress fracture that ended his 2018 campaign prematurely., but things are turning around.

During spring training it seemed like there were some positive signs in his recovery but then the coronavirus took over the world and shut down camp. Luckily, he was able to continue his rehab at home and now that the Red Sox have reopened JetBlue Park, it looks like he’ll be ready for the season when it begins.

Verdugo spoke with the media via conference call and the right fielder is optimistic about this upcoming season and his health.

"“Yeah, physically I’m 100 percent,” Verdugo said. “I feel very good. Just moving around with everything, my swing, my throwing, running, I feel really good. 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 they may be, I think physically I’m ready.”"

Having Verdugo get healthy is exactly what the Red Sox need right now. The team picked up free-agent outfielder Kevin Pillar this past winter but he’s only signed through 2020. As we learned with the labor agreement between the MLB and MLBPA, whether or not this season is played, it will be counted towards a player’s service term.

So it doesn’t matter if we see baseball in 2020 or not, Alex will be the everyday right fielder going forward. One of his best attributes is his versatility, not only can he cover right field, but with Jackie Bradley Jr. also heading for free agency in 2021, he can shift back to his more natural position of centerfield.

"“I still stayed active at home,” Verdugo said. “I was hitting, throwing a little bit and working out. Obviously didn’t have the amount of resources I do at the facility. We just got back in … last week was our first week back into the complex and yeah, we took it slow again, 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.”"

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Now I’m not out here trying to say that Verdugo is an even swap for Betts or will even enter that realm, but he isn’t a scrub either. Before getting shut down in 2019 he was on track for a solid season. He posted a .294/.342/.475/.817 line with 12 homers and 44 RBI. Not bad for a guy that had to miss the end of the season with a busted back.

I don’t know what this season has in store and I don’t think anyone really does. With each day we hear about another possible rollout plan from the league but nothing feels concrete, and we shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves. It’s great to see that Alex hasn’t taken a day off and is getting himself into the best shape possible for what may come. As someone that has a sketchy back, there are days where I don’t even want to move, so it’s awesome to see this guy working so hard.

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The Red Sox have a chance to really bounceback from an abysmal 2019 this season and Alex Verdugo can be a massive boost to those efforts. If his back can stay healthy then there’s a solid chance that we hear his name a lot in 2020. His dedication and work ethic during this offseason should open up some eyes as it’s very clear that he isn’t going to waste his chance in Boston.