SAN DIEGO — Alex Verdugo’s arm is playing better in the outfield this year. After a down 2022 season where Verdugo rated in the 75th percentile, he’s back to his usual form, ranking in the 95th percentile in arm strength this year.
It’s not that Verdugo couldn’t throw hard last season. But if he did his shoulder had a tendency to hurt. So, he got together with Red Sox trainers heading into this season, namely Masai Takahashi, the Sox’ assistant athletic trainer, and put together a program to strengthen his shoulder.
“I felt like I just needed to do more shoulder program, kind of like what pitchers do and arm care,” Verdugo said Saturday ahead of the Sox’ second game of a three-game series against the Padres. “I got on a pretty good program. “We do a lot of things with that and that was like one of my biggest goals from last year was to come back and be able to throw harder more consistently.”
Verdugo rated in the 99th percentile in arm strength during the 2020 season, though that was in a 60-game season due to COVID-19. His arm played in 2021, rating in the 94th percentile before his down season in 2022. Verdugo, who would have been a top-round pick as a lefthanded pitcher out of high school, saw this as as another challenge. In order to reach the heights the team expected, he would have to flash his arm strength, too.
“I felt like my arm angle started dropping more to the side and I was just kind of slinging it,” said Verdugo. “I was dealing with some shoulder stuff, too. So I kind of already knew it. So I said this year, going into the offseason, I just did a lot of shoulder programming, and just threw and made sure just kind of keep it going.”
After the signing of Masataka Yoshida during last year’s offseason, Verdugo moved to right field. He no longer had the Fenway wall as his crutch. He understoodhis arm would have to play better in right field, particularly at Fenway.
“Left field you don’t need to throw very far at Fenway,” Verdugo said. “So for me, I guess, adjustment for me was that I have to make those long throws.”
The arm isn’t the only component of Verdugo’s game that has improved. He’s turned into a premier defender, too. His jumps have been better all season, living in the 91st percentile this year among outfielders.
During Friday night’s 6-1 win over the Padres, Verdugo dove and snagged a sinking liner off the bat of Xander Bogaerts.
“When you have your legs under you and you feel like you know you can move and be athletic, it helps with everything else,” said Verdugo. “I think last year I was definitely a little bit heavier, and it was just harder to move and it just hurt a little bit more.”