Verdugo out of lineup for 'maintenance' day

September 6th, 2020

BOSTON -- Alex Verdugo started the season coming off a serious back injury. At that point, he was also sitting against his share of left-handed pitchers as manager Ron Roenicke had a rotating platoon to get Kevin Pillar in the lineup.

Though the Jays had lefty Robby Ray on the mound for Sunday afternoon’s finale of this five-game series, Sunday was simply a maintenance day after the fiery outfielder had been in the lineup for the last 12 games.

Verdugo has long since proved he can hit southpaws. And he’s also proved that his back is no longer an issue.

“A little beat up from all the diving and sliding and all that,” said Roenicke. “Thought it was good to give him today off and back it up with a [team] day off tomorrow and hopefully he’ll be good to go on the doubleheader [in Philadelphia on Tuesday].”

Verdugo worked tirelessly in Spring Training and during the COVID-19 shutdown to bounce back from the stress fracture he suffered in his lower back last season with the Dodgers, and his back has responded well.

“Yeah, it’s good. We’re not really concerned about that anymore,” said Roenicke. “We hope we’re behind that. You know, he does do other things. Because he plays so hard, he’s going into walls and trying to go over walls so he gets banged up some and that’s why today I have him off. But I have to watch him and make sure he’s still doing OK. “

For similar reasons, third baseman Rafael Devers also got the day off, leaving the Red Sox with a unique look to their lineup in which Yairo Muñoz and Christian Vázquez occupied the top two spots in the batting order.

It was almost even more unique.

“We almost led off Vázquez,” said Roenicke. “We were thinking we could lead off Vázquez and put [Kevin] Plawecki two and that would be pretty unusual to have your two catchers going one and two in your lineup. So Muñoz, we thought was [the other option], I don’t know, I don’t know which way is better. I was good with either one of them. But I think Muñoz, getting a guy that’s hot and he is a little scary too because you have to be careful with him leading off, so we’ll see what happens.”

Hyers talks Dalbec, J.D.
Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers has formed a favorable early impression of the work ethic displayed by Bobby Dalbec, the team’s No. 3 prospect who was called up to the Majors a week ago.

Dalbec belted a homer in his Major League debut, then struggled for four games before getting back on track with another homer on Saturday.

Hyers also notes the unique challenges Dalbec faces with his big physique.

“Dalbec’s a guy that’s always working,” Hyers said. “He’s a big guy, so he has long limbs and a longer swing and you have to make sure that it’s compact. Being on time I think is the hardest thing for big guys to navigate.

“The thing that we did is he showed us a couple of his swings back in college and some things that he possibly got away from and when you start to struggle and strikeouts started to tally, I think he wanted to get back to some basics. If he makes contact, you see the power, it impacts the game.

“So I think it’s just some things he wanted to get back to and just being consistent with a compact swing. Not anything to overhaul, but just a compact swing to help him be consistent and put the ball in play, because when he puts the ball in play, he’s a game-changer.”

One of the most challenging things for Hyers this season? Trying to get J.D. Martinez going. Though the star slugger has shown signs of life this season, his numbers are well below his lofty standards.

“J.D. really worked on his hands the first part of Spring Training, the first part of the season,” said Hyers. “I think he got his path where he wanted it, but he lost his lower half and his last three or four days, he’s really concentrated on his hips and getting the base in a position to hit from to allow the swing plane to work.

“I think he’s corrected some things, got his hips more level and was more sturdy in that lower half and I think we saw the benefit. He was happy. He was excited about how things were moving and the progression. Now we have to keep it, we have to maintain that in these last couple weeks.”

Taylor’s demise
As a rookie last season, lefty Josh Taylor has surprisingly emerged as one of the most important pieces of Boston’s bullpen.

This season, which started with Taylor on the injured list due to a positive test for COVID-19, has not been pretty. After giving up three runs in one inning on Saturday night, Taylor is sporting a 9.82 ERA.

“He hasn’t had his good stuff, he hasn’t had his command yet. And I think, we talk about it, he sat out a month and trying to get some negative test results back so we could get him into camp,” said Roenicke. “I think just during the month of sitting in the hotel room, not being able to do much, really hurt him physically.

“Even though he came back and did have that stretch where he went to the alternate [training] site in Pawtucket, [R.I.,] to get in shape, I don’t know really if he ever got there. He’s trying to catch up, and he’s just not the same guy as he was last year.”