Will Alex Verdugo Be Next Shohei Ohtani? Not On Alex Cora’s Watch

Verdugo pitched in high school, reaching speeds as high as 97 mph

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October 8, 2021

The Los Angeles Angels have become the envy of teams across Major League Baseball thanks to Shohei Ohtani — who this summer became the first player to be named an All-Star starter as a two-way player. Could the Boston Red Sox be next?

Outfielder Alex Verdugo told reporters Friday he wants to develop his pitching in order to be used as a two-way player by 2023. He is realistic about his goal — telling reporters he actually does not want to reach Ohtani’s level of success, and he needs more than a few months in order to be game-ready on the mound. It remains a goal nonetheless.

“If they’re willing to give me an opportunity to do that, I would love to do that,” Verdugo told reporters prior to Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. via Christopher Smith of MassLive. “The competitor in me just try to maximize what I can do for the team. And like I said, if pitching is a realistic thing, I’m going to pursue it and try to do both.”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora, however, wasn’t as enthusiastic.

“He said that this offseason he might go to Driveline and work on his pitching again because he feels he can throw 97, 98,” Cora told reporters Friday, per Smith. “I guess he used to do that and become a two-way player. We’re like, ‘No, you’re not doing that. You’re actually getting better physically and you have to take care of yourself and be ready for spring training.”

This isn’t a new goal for Verdugo. The Athletic’s Chad Jennings reported in March 2020 that Verdugo thought he had the skills to be a two-way player for the Red Sox. And it’s not just his ego — Verdugo was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an outfielder, but Dodgers scouting supervisor Brian Stephenson said he had the makings of a No. 3 starter, according to Jennings.

Speaking to Jennings in 2020, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom didn’t exactly shut down the concept, but he said the Red Sox were more interested in getting Verdugo healthy from a back injury.

That plan, at least, has worked out pretty well. Verdugo appeared in a career-high 146 games in his second season with the Red Sox, slashing .289/.351/.426 with 32 doubles and 63 RBIs.

Whether he’ll spend it pitching or not, Verdugo and the Red Sox aren’t focused on the offseason quite yet. Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays is Friday at 7:02 p.m. ET.

Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images
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