The Boston Red Sox outfield is going to look a lot different in 2021.
If Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn't return, all three starting outfielders from the 2018 World Series team will be wearing new uniforms. Andrew Benintendi was traded to the Kansas City Royals this offseason and Mookie Betts, of course, was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers last year in the deal that brought Alex Verdugo to Boston.
Suddenly, the 24-year-old Verdugo is the Red Sox's longest-tenured outfielder. Other outfielders on the roster include newcomers Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero, plus utility men Kiké Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez.
Assuming JBJ is gone, we can expect Verdugo to spend plenty of time in center field. He's up for the challenge.
“For me, I love center,” Verdugo told reporters Thursday in Fort Myers. “I wouldn’t say it’s my natural position. That’s just what I played the most growing up. That’s where a lot of my reps were. I’ve always prided myself on being good in any of the three outfield positions, so it’ll be the same this year.”
As versatile as Verdugo can be, he did give one good reason why he'd prefer to mostly play one position.
“I think my biggest thing this year, and this is more like of a selfish thing in that aspect, is that I just want to accumulate enough innings in one position to, you know, qualify for some certain things, like defensive awards and things like that,” Verdugo said. “But you know, as far as being versatile and everything with that, if I see my name penciled in the lineup and all that, I don't care where I'm playing. I'm happy to go out there and compete.”
While he only has 53 games in Boston under his belt, Verdugo will be counted on to be a leader for the 2021 club. Given his impressive production during the abbreviated 2020 campaign, we can expect him to make a positive impact both in the field and at the plate this season.