The delayed start to the 2020 Major League Baseball season could be a blessing in disguise for Boston Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo.
Verdugo, acquired in February from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the blockbuster trade involving Mookie Betts and David Price, was expected to miss Opening Day due to a lingering back injury. However, the 23-year-old told reporters Monday during a conference call he now anticipates being ready whenever the new campaign begins.
‘Physically, I?m 100 percent,” Verdugo said, per CBS Boston. “I feel very good just moving around with everything — my swing, my throwing, running around. The extra time has just given me more time to get my endurance up.”
The Red Sox were supposed to open against the Blue Jays in Toronto on March 26, but MLB postponed spring training and delayed the start of the regular season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s unclear when the season will begin — or what the schedule will look like, for that matter — but Verdugo has used the delay to his advantage.
“Whenever the season starts, I?ll be ready,” Verdugo said. “Whether that?s soon or a few months down the road, physically, I think I?m ready.”
Verdugo, whose 2019 season with the Dodgers was cut short due to his back issue, has returned to working out at the Red Sox’s spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla., which reopened last week. He indicated Monday he hasn’t had any more images/X-rays performed on his back during the COVID-19 pause, but he could at some point before the season to ensure everything checks out.
Verdugo, who turns 24 this month, is coming off a 2019 in which he batted .294 with 12 home runs, 44 RBIs and an .817 OPS in 377 plate appearances across 106 games. He figures to slot in as Boston’s primary right fielder this season with Betts in Los Angeles.