Verdugo benched in finale after lack of hustle vs. Guards

June 8th, 2023

CLEVELAND -- Red Sox right fielder Alex Verdugo was benched for Thursday night’s rubber match of a three-game series against the Guardians for a lack of hustle in Wednesday’s loss, according to manager Alex Cora.

The play that irked Cora took place in the top of the seventh inning when Masataka Yoshida tapped an 82.1 mph grounder to first base. Verdugo didn’t run all that hard on the play, and was out by about a step and didn’t slide.

When the Sox went to play defense in the bottom of the eighth inning, Jarren Duran moved from right to center field and Christian Arroyo took Verdugo’s spot in the batting order.

The Boston Globe was first to report that Verdugo’s lack of hustle was the reason he was taken out of Wednesday’s game and not in the lineup on Thursday.

“Yeah, there was a play in the seventh inning I didn't like,” said Cora before Thursday’s game. “We just felt like in that play, his reaction wasn't a great one, you know, obviously, not busting his behind to second. I don't know if he [would have been] out or safe, but I didn't like it.”

Cora said Verdugo would be back in the lineup when the Red Sox open a three-game series against Gerrit Cole and the Yankees on Friday night in New York.

Prior to his meeting with the media on Thursday, Cora brought Verdugo into his office to talk.

“Dugie as a player this year, you know, there's not too many things that we can question, right? Defensively, he's one of the best in the big leagues. Offensively, he’s been solid,” said Cora. “Even baserunning, which is one of the things that he needed to get better, he’s doing a good job.”

The 31-31 Red Sox came into Thursday with a 5-11 mark since May 21 and have played some sloppy baseball, particularly on defense.

“Obviously where we’re at, and I’m not using 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. And he knows it, so I took him out of the game and then today he’s not starting.”

Cora didn’t sound like he would use Verdugo in any situation on Thursday.

In Sunday’s loss to the Rays, Verdugo was involved in one of the ugliest defensive plays of the season for Boston in what wound up being a Little League, two-run homer.

Cora said that play -- a collective meltdown by the Red Sox -- didn’t factor into Thursday’s benching.

“The play the other day, both of them, they have to go after it, you know, you see their reaction,” said Cora. “I think Jarren took Alex for granted. And Alex actually didn't have a great jump. Just you know, off the ball, he didn't see it right away.”

While Cora knows that everyday players have to protect their legs at times over a long season, he didn’t feel like Yoshida’s slow grounder in the seventh inning on Thursday was an appropriate time to do so.

“Like I told him, he plays 155, 150 games, and there's some routine ground balls to second that I'm good with him giving the general effort, and he’s going to be out,” said Cora. “But there’s certain plays that we expect him to just go because they're game-changers. And I'm not saying he was going to be safe or out at second. I’m saying that, if he goes hard, there’s no question, and we can’t question the effort or the decision. Yesterday it just happened that he didn’t hustle to second and I decided to take him out of the game.”

Without Verdugo in the lineup, Cora went with center fielder Duran in the leadoff spot while playing Rob Refsnyder in right field.