CLEVELAND — Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo was removed from Wednesday’s loss to the Guardians after not hustling out a play during the top of the seventh inning, according to a league source.
As a result, he was benched in Thursday’s 10-3 series finale loss to Cleveland.
With the Sox down, 5-2, with two outs and Verdugo on first after reaching on a fielder’s choice, Masataka Yoshida hit a slow tapper to the right side of the infield that was fielded by first baseman Josh Naylor. Naylor had to charge the ball, leaving him with just a force play at second to attempt.
Had Verdugo been running faster, Naylor wouldn’t have had much of a shot at getting him.
Instead, Verdugo wasn’t running at full speed, and even looked back and hesitated, trying to see where the ball was despite there being two outs.
To make matters worse, Naylor delivered an off-target throw to shortstop Amed Rosario covering second. But Rosario held the bag to end the inning. Verdugo yelled in anger after the play, perhaps knowing he had made a mistake.
“I don’t know if he’s safe or out,” Cora said before the series finale. “But I didn’t like it.”
It was a missed opportunity for the Sox, who might have wound up with runners at first and second with Justin Turner up, facing lefthander Sam Hentges.
Verdugo was removed in the bottom of the eighth, with Jarren Duran moving from center to right field. Kiké Hernández went from shortstop to center, Pablo Reyes went from second to short, and Christian Arroyo went in at second and took over Verdugo’s leadoff spot in the order.
Cora spoke to Verdugo Thursday. Verdugo has been one of the team’s best players this year, batting .286 with a .814 OPS and five homers. He came into the day tied with the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. for first in the majors among right fielders with eight defensive runs saved.
“One of the things with Dugie as a player this year, there’s not too many things you can question,” Cora said. “Defensively, he’s one of the best in the big leagues. Offensively, he’s been solid. Even base running which was one of the things he needed to get better at.
“But, obviously, where we are at — and I didn’t want to use him as an example because we have to be better in a lot of aspects — but yesterday, I felt like ‘You know what, that’s not acceptable.’ He knows that. So, I took him out of the game.”
The Sox ultimately fell to the Guardians by that same score, putting them back at .500 on the year (31-31).
The Sox recently held a players-only meeting Monday, highlighting the sense of urgency the team must play with considering they are in last place in the American League East. Last month, Verdugo, who has tried to take on more of a vocal role with the Sox, called a players-only meeting of his own.
That, though, hasn’t been enough, and the decision to keep Verdugo on the bench represents another moment in which the Sox are fighting to stay afloat.
“There are certain plays that we expect him to go,” Cora said, “because they’re game changers.”
Verdugo declined an interview request Thursday before the game.
Wildfires wreak havoc
The Yankees-White Sox matchup Wednesday was postponed because of hazardous air quality in New York. The White Sox and Yankees played a traditional doubleheader Thursday at Yankee Stadium, and the Red Sox will travel there for a three-game set beginning Friday.
Even though the air quality is improving, it does bring some concern. The Red Sox have their families on the road with them during this two-city road trip for Sox family week, meaning some of the Sox players and staff members will also have their children in New York.
“Since they’re playing, I think things are a lot better,” Cora said. “But yesterday, it looked like a Star Wars movie. It looked ugly. Hopefully we can play the weekend over there and same as other places, you know, and we can keep moving.”
Adam Duvall (right wrist fracture) is off Thursday and will be activated Friday in New York ... Lefthander Matt Dermody was designated for assignment. Cora indicated there could be two moves made Friday … Infielder Yu Chang (broken hamate bone) is set to return to the roster on Monday. Chang went 1 for 2 at Triple A Worcester Thursday ... Lefthander Richard Bleier (shoulder inflammation) is not progressing as hoped; he recently began playing catch and felt some soreness. ... The pitching matchups for this weekend’s Sox-Yankee series: Garrett Whitlock vs. Gerritt Cole; Tanner Houck vs. Domingo German; and Brayan Bello vs. Clarke Schmidt. The Yankees (37-27) will be without Aaron Judge, who recently landed on the injured list with a toe injury.