NORTH PORT, Fla. — Alex Verdugo played in only 11 of the Red Sox’ first 20 Grapefruit League games, preferring to spend extra time in the batting cage early on.
It didn’t seem to help much. He was 4 for 24 with one extra-base hit out of the gate.
But Verdugo was feeling better after going 1 for 3 with a walk and an RBI against the Braves Tuesday.
“The spring I’m having, it’s been a different one,” Verdugo said. “I think we go performance-wise and batting average-wise, it’s not quite where obviously I would have wanted.
“But physically and all that, I’m in a lot better position than I was last year. Right now, it’s getting up there and seeing pitches and having at-bats.”
Verdugo didn’t play in any games last spring training as he recovered from back surgery. He was cleared to play when baseball picked up again in July and went on to hit .308 with an .844 OPS.
Verdugo said his goal ahead of Opening Day will be to use the opposite field more to lock in his swing.
“It’s getting better,” manager Alex Cora said. “He’s making good decisions at the plate. Not chasing pitches.”
Verdugo will play again Wednesday, then again Friday.
Richards looks sharp
In his penultimate start before the regular season, Garrett Richards threw 94 pitches over 5⅔ innings and left with a 7-3 lead.
“You can see him improving each outing,” Cora said.
The righthander rolled through the first four innings on 60 pitches, giving up one run and retiring 12 of 14 as he worked at a brisk pace. He allowed two runs in the fifth.
In all, Richards was charged with three runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
“Today went well,” said Richards, who was facing the Braves for the third time in four starts. “I threw a lot of strikes and I was around the zone even when I wasn’t throwing strikes. Definitely going in the right direction.”
Game plan coordinator Jason Varitek has been helpful in his preparation.
“I’ve been picking his brain on what he sees that I’m doing, what he sees I can get better at,” Richards said. “He’s been a great resource.”
Progress for Brasier
Ryan Brasier threw his first session of live batting practice Monday and is scheduled for another Thursday. “It was a positive step for him,” Cora said. Brasier’s spring was delayed by a broken bone in his hand. He also missed the first week of camp attending to a family matter in Texas. Brasier has run out of time to be ready for Opening Day but shouldn’t need too much time to build up.
The Sox also played a B game against the Twins in Fort Myers Tuesday. Matt Andriese, John Schreiber, and Tanner Houck pitched, with Franchy Cordero among those getting at-bats. The teams have another B game at the Twins complex Friday. Nick Pivetta is lined up for six innings there instead of facing Tampa Bay for a third time … Matt Barnes is scheduled for back-to-back appearances Thursday and Friday. Adam Ottavino will pitch Wednesday, then do his first back-to-back Friday and Saturday … Nate Eovaldi starts Wednesday against the Orioles in Fort Myers. The righthander has had a rocky spring, giving up 11 earned runs on 17 hits over 9⅓ innings … Cora said there was no lingering issue with Eduardo Rodriguez after his two-inning start Monday.