Through every down season -- and this one has been a big downer for the Red Sox -- there are still bright spots.
The biggest one for Boston this season? Without question, it has to be Alex Verdugo.
The fiery outfielder has proved that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom had the right idea by making him the key return piece in the blockbuster that sent superstar Mookie Betts to the Dodgers.
Verdugo has contributed on offense, defense and on the bases. In a market that is challenging for many players to get comfortable, it’s been the opposite for Verdugo.
“It’s just who I am as a person. I don’t back down from a challenge,” Verdugo said. “I don’t shy away from the big moment. “
Just 24 years old, the Red Sox hold Verdugo’s contractual rights for four more seasons after this one.
“I think he’s shown good defense and battles well at the plate,” said Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke. “I really like this guy. I think when people see him when there’s fans in the stands, they’re going to really appreciate the effort he puts in, the energy he has. And I think he’s going to be a really nice player. Whether we keep him in the leadoff spot, I’m not positive, but if we do, it looks like he can really handle that well also.”
The left-handed-hitting Verdugo entered Friday’s game with a line of .310/.371/.516, with 14 doubles and six homers in 170 plate appearances.
Entering the season, it was fair to wonder if Verdugo would be a platoon player or an everyday guy. He has proven to be the latter, hitting .309 with an .813 OPS against lefties. Verdugo has also given the Red Sox stability in the leadoff spot.
“Once I came here, it was kind of one of those things, I knew I had an opportunity to play and to finally just be a starter,” Verdugo said. “To come over here, to know you have a starting spot and just go to out there and play and kind of just keep showing little aspects of your game, it’s great.”
Proving yourself in a 60-game season can be tough, but it has worked out well for Verdugo.
“I’ve been showing that I can run a little bit, I’ve show that I can hit lefties, hit righties, I can hit for a little bit of power,” Verdugo said. “It’s just one of those things, I think this is like a 60-game little sprint just to kind of show everybody what you have. Show that I can play. Yeah, there’s still room to grow. Everyone has room to grow. I still want to continue to learn and continue to kind of improve my strengths and improve my weaknesses.”
“I probably talked to Chris maybe about a week ago. He was doing really well,” Roenicke said. “He’s started to play catch, and the catch has gone really well. So, it’s been about a week now since he started to throw, and everything is going really well.”
Eovaldi to return Saturday
Hard-throwing righty Nathan Eovaldi will make his first start since Aug. 21 on Saturday night against the Rays. He was out with a right calf strain.
Eovaldi won’t pitch deep into the game, given the time he’s missed.
“We’ll see how efficient he is in his pitches and how long we can keep him out there,” Roenicke said.
Another day, another roster move
Boston’s roster continues to be a revolving door. The latest move was the club placing lefty reliever Josh Taylor on the injured list with tendinitis in his left shoulder.
Righty Domingo Tapia was selected from the alternate training site to fill Taylor’s spot. To fit Tapia on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox transferred Colten Brewer to the 45-day injured list.
For the first time in baseball history -- going back to 1901 -- the Rays put out a lineup on Friday that had all left-handed batters on a night the Red Sox went with an opener on the mound in righty Andrew Triggs.
Roenicke, who wasn’t aware it had never been done before, did a double-take.
“So, when [bench coach] Jerry Narron gave me the lineup, I looked at it, and it looked wrong to me. Everything was in red,” Roenicke said. “So, I don’t even know how often that has happened. I don’t know, really, the history of that or what kind of numbers, what’s the last time that has happened? Pretty interesting, though.”