Red Sox sign former Astros righty McHugh

First look at potential Opening Day lineup; Verdugo making weekly progress

March 5th, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox added a righty with experience and versatility on Thursday, signing Collin McHugh to a one-year, $600,000 contract with performance bonuses for innings pitched that can bring the total up to $4.25 million.

However, McHugh, who is coming off a right elbow injury, isn’t expected to be ready for the start of the 2020 season.

When he does come back, he could aid the rotation or bullpen -- or perhaps bounce back and forth between the two roles.

“Well, he can do both and he’s willing to do both,” said Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke. “So we’ll kind of get him ramped up, extend him out and then see where he fits in on our staff.”

McHugh reported to camp on Thursday, just prior to the Red Sox facing his former team -- the Astros -- in Grapefruit League play. The training staff will examine him more before determining when he can engage in a throwing program.

The news of McHugh’s signing came on the same day the Red Sox revealed that ace Chris Sale has a flexor strain in his left elbow.

“They’re evaluating him still now,” Roenicke said of McHugh. “So we don’t know when that period will be when he starts up, but he’s coming back from a flexor also so we’re not sure when that period is when he’ll be able to pitch in games for us.”

The 32-year-old McHugh is 58-43 with a 3.95 ERA (351 ER/800.2 IP) in 210 career Major League outings, including 119 starts and 91 relief appearances. As a starter, McHugh is 51-39 with a 4.14 ERA.

With the Astros last season, McHugh was 4-5 with a 4.70 ERA in 35 appearances, eight of which were starts.

McHugh’s mix includes a fastball, cutter and slider.

To make room for McHugh on the roster, the Red Sox designated righty Hector Velázquez for assignment.

Lineup looks like Opening Day
For the first time this spring, Roenicke posted a lineup that could be the same one you see on Opening Day in Toronto.

It went like this: Andrew Benintendi LF, Rafael Devers 3B, Xander Bogaerts SS, J.D. Martinez DH, Michael Chavis 1B, Christian Vázquez C, Jackie Bradley Jr. CF, Kevin Pillar RF, José Peraza 2B.

The group didn’t produce much of an output against the Astros on Thursday, generating a total of three hits and no runs before giving way to the subs. But it’s a lineup that Roenicke feels confident about.

“It’s nice to see the lineup today. I love seeing that lineup today,” said Roenicke. “So, that’s nice for us to get basically our team back out on the field.”

Verdugo update
Of course, one of the potential big pieces of the lineup is Alex Verdugo, who will start the season on the injured list.

Verdugo is recovering from a stress fracture in his back that he suffered last season with the Dodgers.

The left-handed hitter is making weekly progress.

“He’s still not swinging but running well, doing everything basically but the trunk twisting with the swing,” Roenicke said.

Roenicke recently speculated that Verdugo could be ready to play in Spring Training games by mid-March. Is that still the case?

“Probably depends how fast he comes along once he starts swinging. If he starts swinging and there’s nothing there at all, you can ramp him up quicker. Hopefully that’s the case and we’ll see him pretty quick,” said Roenicke.

Up next
When the Red Sox travel to North Port on Friday to face the Braves, they will have their expected Opening Day starter on the mound in Eduardo Rodriguez. The lefty was sharp in his first Grapefruit League start, firing three shutout innings while walking none and striking out six. Key setup man Matt Barnes will see action out of the bullpen. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.