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Muñoz to IL, Puello recalled; Verdugo update

@IanMBrowne
September 19, 2020

Yairo Muñoz, who made a strong impression for the Red Sox after being called up from the alternate training site, had his season come to an end on Saturday when he was placed on the 10-day injured list due to an ailing back. The right-handed hitter suffered the injury in

Yairo Muñoz, who made a strong impression for the Red Sox after being called up from the alternate training site, had his season come to an end on Saturday when he was placed on the 10-day injured list due to an ailing back.

The right-handed hitter suffered the injury in Thursday’s 5-3 loss to the Marlins. The Red Sox had been waiting to see if he could get healthy.

“We didn't think it would be just a couple more days,” said Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke. “He was still sore this morning when [head athletic trainer] Brad [Pearson] called and talked to him.”

In 12 games and 45 at-bats for the Red Sox, the 25-year-old Muñoz hit .333 with one homer, four RBIs and an .844 OPS. In a series this week at Miami, he made a terrific play in left field in one game and a sweet diving snare in right during another.

“He was doing everything, running the bases well and driving the ball,” Roenicke said. “Putting it in play.”

Muñoz has put himself in strong position to earn a roster spot for 2021.

To replace Muñoz on the roster, the Red Sox selected outfielder César Puello from the alternate site and placed him in Saturday night’s lineup, batting ninth and playing right field.

Though Muñoz has experience at second, short and third, the Red Sox used him exclusively in the outfield.

“He did a good job in the outfield, he looks like he has good instincts,” Roenicke said.

One thing Muñoz might have to work on going forward is plate discipline. He didn’t draw any walks.

Verdugo day to day
One reason Boston’s hand was forced on making a roster move with Muñoz is that Alex Verdugo was still unable to play after tweaking his left hamstring in Friday’s loss to the Yankees.

“Verdugo still feels it some,” Roenicke said. “Obviously out tonight, we'll see tomorrow. They were going to work on him in the training room. I saw him before anybody worked on him, but he still felt it. So we'll be cautious there and just see how he comes out of it today after working on him and see what the medical staff says.”

Verdugo, Boston’s main return piece in the trade with the Dodgers for Mookie Betts, has had a solid first season for the Red Sox, slashing .328/.383/.511 to go with six homers, 14 RBIs and four stolen bases in 48 games. Verdugo also has seven assists in the outfield.

Houck ready for Yankees
After mowing down the Marlins in his Major League debut earlier this week, Red Sox No. 10 prospect Tanner Houck will face a much tougher Yankees lineup in his Fenway debut on Sunday afternoon.

“For me, nothing really changes,” Houck said. “As long as you go out there and attack the zone, I think good things happen. If you go right at people and get them on their heels early, it sets up a lot more. Typically whenever you’re behind in hitters’ counts, a lot of people become more dangerous. Just go out there and attack right away, and I’ll definitely feel real confident.”

While it obviously would have been more fun to pitch at Fenway Park for the first time with a packed house at his back, Houck still appreciates the magnitude of pitching in Boston.

“Definitely excited,” Houck said. “Ever since I’ve gotten drafted, it’s been a goal of mine to pitch here in Fenway. It’s such a historical park. Over 100 years of history in this ballpark alone. Truly honored to get the start [Sunday] and pitch in such a historic stadium.”

Devers finishing strong
The way this season started for Rafael Devers -- he was hitting .167 on Aug. 12 -- it was fair to wonder if he would be able to get his numbers back to the point of respectability.

Give Devers credit for not just getting off the mat, but for excelling again. The third baseman entered Saturday with a .365 average in September with five homers, 16 RBIs and a 1.127 OPS. For the season, he’s at .286/.340/.536 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs.

The 23-year-old takes a measure of pride from the way he bounced back.

“I’m obviously trying to get better every single day,” Devers said. “Obviously this season, at the beginning of the year, it didn’t go so well for me, and I was able to right the ship. As I’ve always told you guys, that’s just a part of baseball. There’s ups and downs, but I’m just always trying to improve on my offense and my defense, and work on that and work in the offseason and trying to get better.”

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.