Red Sox: Alex Verdugo reveals what helps him lock in at the plate

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 6: Alex Verdugo #99 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting a double during the eighth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 6, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 6: Alex Verdugo #99 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting a double during the eighth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 6, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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Boston Red Sox hitters can help each other lock in at the plate

The Boston Red Sox have sputtered through a rough patch in which they have dropped 16 of their last 25 games to fall to third place in the AL East. This stretch has been marred by frustrating inconsistency and some embarrassing efforts. The body language has been poor from players who seem miserable and the roster hasn’t been carrying a winning mindset for weeks.

A team that desperately needed to reset their focus held a players-only meeting prior to Monday’s game against the Texas Rangers. According to MassLive’s Christopher Smith, there was one message from that meeting that resonated with Alex Verdugo – energy.

Verdugo has always been a spark plug who thrives on energy. He draws it from clutch moments, from the fans, but also from his teammates.

"“When I’m hitting and I hear guys cheering me on from my dugout, I take a foul ball, miss it and they’re like, ‘Attaboy. You’re right on it,’ it fires you up,” Verdugo said. “It gives you a little bit more adrenaline. It makes you want to get that next pitch even more. Biggest thing is us as players wanted to get together and talk. That’s all that really matters for us.”"

Players on struggling teams know when their teammates have mentally checked out. It’s difficult to get motivated in that environment. When everyone in the dugout is pulling for them, Verdugo explained that it helps hitters “lock in a little bit more.”

Maybe it doesn’t work for everyone but Verdugo believes some encouragement from the dugout helped Rafael Devers refocus during a critical at-bat in the 10th inning. Devers was on the verge of a temper tantrum when he stepped out of the box in frustration after letting a hanging slider pass him by to put him in an 0-2 count. Devers knew he should have hammered that pitch.

Verdugo recalled yelling at Devers from the dugout to “win this pitch,” a message meant to convince his teammate to forget about missing the last one and get the next one. Devers did exactly that, driving the next pitch deep into the center field triangle for a game-tying double.

The Red Sox would go on to win with a dramatic walk-off grand slam from Travis Shaw, his first hit since rejoining the team when they claimed him off waivers last week.

Look at the reaction from his teammates as Shaw rounds the bases. The celebration at home plate, the pure joy stemming from a thrilling comeback. It seems like it’s been forever since we’ve seen this type of emotion from the Red Sox.

Shaw’s career has hit a bumpy road since his steep decline that began a few years ago. He explained after the game how meaningful it was to be claimed by the Red Sox, giving his career a second life with another playoff contender willing to allow him to carve out a role. It’s important for Shaw to know that he has a team that believes in him. His teammates certainly know they can count on him after his extra-inning heroics.

The Red Sox were in danger of suffering another tragic defeat when a bullpen meltdown spoiled Nathan Eovaldi‘s latest gem. Another reason to invite the dark cloud of doom and gloom into their clubhouse. Shaw changed that narrative with one swing. The walk-off win can be a launching pad to build momentum as the Red Sox aim to turn their floundering season around before it’s too late.

To be a contending team, the Red Sox need to start acting like a team again. We’ve seen teams in the past that were dragged down by a toxic clubhouse. This year’s club is a long way from the chicken and beer fiasco of 2011 or the mutiny against Bobby Valentine that followed but the players were still in danger of spiraling from a lack of confidence. Having each other’s backs will go a long way to restoring the proper mindset. Rooting for each other from the dugout rather than passively looking on with blank expressions can provide the boost of energy they need.

"“Just that little ball talk that might go overlooked or some people might think, ‘Hey, that’s what Little Leaguers do.’ Well, you know, that’s what brings energy,” said Verdugo. “That’s what gets it going.”"

Just because it seems simple doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Everyone form Little League to the big leagues will struggle when their confidence has been shattered. A team that believes in each other can help pick up the pieces to regain that winning mindset.

Next. Red Sox future at the catcher position. dark