Alex Verdugo prides himself on patience at the plate.
He wants to see pitches. His plan is simple, yet hard to master: Hit fastballs the other way and pull the offspeed and breaking pitches while always thinking up the middle and left-center. If Verdugo gets away from that approach, that’s when he can lose himself.
That hasn’t happened much this season. Entering Friday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Verdugo has posted a .310 batting average with a .371 on-base percentage and an .887 OPS. In his 170 plate appearances, Verdugo has six homers and 14 doubles. He’s hit lefties well, too (batting .309 against them), something he told management he could do when he came to the Red Sox in the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers. In what’s amounted to a lost season for the Red Sox, individually, Verdugo has made a huge impression.
“I really like this guy,” manager Ron Roenicke said before Friday night’s game. “I think when people see him when there are fans in the stands they are really going to appreciate the effort that he puts in and the energy that he has.”
Verdugo, who is as confident as they come, said part of his success has to do with who he is as a person.
“I don’t back down from a challenge,” he said. “I don’t shy away from the big moment. I came from the Dodgers, we were already expected to win. There was a lot of pressure over there. It didn’t matter if you were a rookie or not. They expected you to be a professional. Once I came here, it was kind of one of those things where I knew I had an opportunity to play and finally just be a starter.”
In addition to Verdugo’s offense, he’s been impressive on defense. He’s registered seven outfield assists and handled both corner outfield positions exceptionally well, and says he feels comfortable there.
As the Red Sox season nears an end, the focus is slowly shifting to 2021. Roenicke is hoping they can have a spring training, but as the country continues its battle with COVID-19, everything is still uncertain.
That goes for fans in the stands, too. Will Verdugo have to go another season without getting his warm welcome to Boston? Like Roenicke, he hopes not.
“I love playing in front of fans, man. It would be nice to hear people screaming when you’re coming up to the plate or when you make a nice play," Verdugo said. "It’s just nice to hear genuine reactions on the spot. As professionals, we expect to go out there and perform.”
Dalbec getting in work
Verdugo said rookie Bobby Dalbec has light-tower power. Dalbec hit yet another homer Thursday night, his sixth of the season. He became just the fifth player in history to homer six times in his first 10 big league games, and the sixth Red Sox player to homer in five consecutive contests. But after playing mostly third base throughout the minors, first base is still an adjustment
“We know Dalbec is a good defensive third baseman,” Roenicke said. “He’s a better third baseman than he is a first baseman and it’s because he’s so comfortable at third. First base, he’s still trying to figure out different scenarios and where he’s supposed to be. I think he’s done a real nice job at first, it’s just that the comfort level isn’t there because he hasn’t played it as much.”
Roenicke added that Dalbec is comfortable holding runners, but they are trying to get him off the bag more.
“Especially with a lefthanded hitter,” Roenicke said. “We want them to be able to get off and get set when the ball is crossing home plate. The only way to do that is to start off the bag some.”
Rafael Devers, who came into Friday on a tear, wants to continue to play every day until the season’s end, so it’s unlikely Dalbec will get much time at third, leaving much of his playing time at first.
Eovaldi to start Saturday; Sale throwing
Chris Sale has been playing catch for a week, and Roenicke said it’s been going well. Meanwhile, Nate Eovaldi will come off the injured list and pitch Saturday. Lefthander Josh Taylor was placed on the 10-day IL (retroactive to Sept. 8) with left shoulder tendinitis and righthander Domingo Tapia was selected from the alternate training site. Colten Brewer was transferred to 45-day IL in order to make room for Tapia ... The Rays featured an all-lefty lineup Friday. It was the first time in the modern era (since 1901) any team has done that.