Verdugo rising into any position Sox hand him – Sports activities – providencejournal.com
Of all of the strengths Mookie Betts delivered to the Purple Sox, adaptability may show to be among the many hardest to exchange.
The previous American League Most Invaluable Participant flourished as a leadoff man atop a potent lineup. It was a task Betts accepted and excelled in regardless of maybe preferring to hit elsewhere.
Andrew Benintendi has struggled mightily in that spot over the steadiness of the final two years. Alex Verdugo, regardless of stable numbers and an prolonged run in his Boston debut, may discover himself additional down the order in the long run.
The Purple Sox didn’t simply lose a five-tool participant after they traded Betts to the Dodgers in February. They parted firm with the quintessential offensive catalyst.
“Some guys are so good at leadoff that you simply don’t need to put them at another spot, they usually make your lineup go,” Purple Sox supervisor Ron Roenicke mentioned. “(Verdugo is) there now. That’s why Mookie was there — to create offense.”
Verdugo entered Saturday’s sport with the Rays 4-for-22 with a stroll and 12 strikeouts main off video games. His general numbers in that spot are significantly higher — .309/.368/.485 with 11 doubles and two residence runs in 23 video games. Verdugo is able to hitting left-handed and right-handed pitching, posting an OPS of .812 and .927, respectively.
“Having a superb quantity of days batting leadoff, I’ve come to just accept it,” Verdugo mentioned. “You sort of simply need to go up there with a mindset. I’m getting 5 (at-bats) — I’ve set to work them.”
Whereas actually not a refusal to proceed in that position, it’s removed from a full-throated endorsement. Betts was a pure match and functioned superbly due to his full talent set. He was 31-for-95 main off video games in 2019, drawing seven walks and amassing a .941 OPS.
“I feel (Verdugo) initiatives out that approach,” Roenicke mentioned. “However he additionally initiatives second. If he continues to hit the ball and progress, he could also be a 3rd hitter. We all know he can hit wherever down beneath.
“I do know he nonetheless is extra snug — I shouldn’t say he doesn’t like leadoff. However he’s extra snug on the second spot than at leadoff.”
Verdugo is an extrovert by nature. His character, significantly when followers are in a position to make their return to ballparks, figures to generate speedy buzz if on the plate within the first inning. A fast offensive menace might be needed in 2021 to cowl for what shall be a rebuilding Boston pitching employees, which is mainly accountable for the membership’s 16-30 document this season.
“I really feel like loads of occasions I’ll strike out within the first at-bat and I’ll return to the dugout like, ‘Awww man. What a approach to begin off the sport. Sorry guys,’ ” Verdugo mentioned. “However I additionally really feel prefer it wakes me up fast. I needed to get used to it somewhat bit.
“I used to be battling having to be aggressive to begin off the sport or seeing pitches and dealing the rely. I felt like generally I used to be within the center. I used to be taking pitches that have been approach too good — I ought to have been swinging. And once I acquired aggressive I used to be swinging at their pitches — what they wished to execute.”
Being traded for a generational expertise like Betts positioned a major quantity of exterior strain on Verdugo. It’s not one thing he’s confessed to feeling or making use of on himself. It’s necessary to maintain in perspective the aggressive surroundings offered by Los Angeles, the place the place Verdugo was drafted and developed right into a big-leaguer.
“I don’t again down from a problem,” Verdugo mentioned. “I don’t shrink back from an enormous second. I got here from the Dodgers — we have been already anticipated to win. There’s loads of strain over there to be good and to contribute instantly.
“It didn’t matter should you have been a rookie or not. They count on you to be skilled and to go about what you are promoting the best approach. As soon as I got here right here I knew I had a possibility to play and to lastly simply be a starter.”
The Purple Sox entered Saturday with simply 14 video games left, however Verdugo figures to be with the membership for some time. He doesn’t hit free company till 2025, and crew management was a part of the attraction when Boston despatched Betts, David Worth and $48 million to the Dodgers for Verdugo and prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong. Whether or not or not he emerges as a future cornerstone stays to be seen, however Verdugo actually appears the a part of a impactful common.
“This is sort of a 60-game little dash to point out everyone what you’ve got,” Verdugo mentioned. “I can play. There’s nonetheless room to develop — everyone has room to develop. I nonetheless need to proceed to be taught and proceed to enhance my strengths and enhance my weaknesses.”
On Twitter: @BillKoch25