Red Sox

Remember Alex Verdugo? Centerpiece of Mookie Betts trade finally swinging a bat again

Remember Alex Verdugo? Centerpiece of Mookie Betts trade finally swinging a bat again

Had all gone according to plan, Alex Verdugo would be thinking about returning to the Red Sox right about now.

The outfielder, acquired as the centerpiece of the trade that sent former American League MVP Mookie Betts to the Dodgers, arrived at camp with a stress fracture in his back and had already been effectively declared out for Opening Day in late March in Toronto.

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The hope had been that he'd return sometime in mid or late April, but with baseball shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, manager Ron Roenicke was asked where Verdugo stands today. And while 23-year-old has been unable to receive a follow-up MRI to see if his stress fracture has healed, he is taking other positive steps.

"He can take full swings, he can run fine, his throwing was really getting good," Roenicke said. "Unfortunately, I don't think we've been able to take him back in there to have an MRI done to see if that thing has healed completely, and I don't know if we need to."

The Red Sox are counting on a healthy Verdugo to pick up some of the slack created by Betts' absence. A left-handed hitter with a sweet line drive stroke, Verdugo hit .294 with an .817 OPS last season before the back injury curtailed his season, limiting him to 106 games.

He then lost months of conditioning over the winter, since the fracture made twisting or lifting weights painful, but he is regaining motion. He decided to remain in Florida during the pandemic in order to work out at JetBlue Park and maintain contact with the team's medical staff, but with the park closed, he is working out on his own.

"Unfortunately with the shutdown of the camp at JetBlue, he hasn't been able to continually progress as fast as we'd like him to," Roenicke said. "He is swinging and doing all the things he needs to do. Unfortunately with the shutdown, we're having to basically go see him and then it makes it more difficult for him to work out."

So, then the natural question is: if there's baseball in 2020, will Verdugo be a part of it? Roenicke sounds hopeful.

"I think by the time we get back and train again, if we're going to be able to do it, I would think he's going to be able to fit in along with the other guys and maybe be ready for us," he said.


Why Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke 'really liked' fake crowd noise at Fenway Park

Why Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke 'really liked' fake crowd noise at Fenway Park

The Boston Red Sox experimented with fake crowd noise during Friday's intersquad scrimmage at Fenway Park, offering a preview of what the gameday experience might sound and look like once the 2020 MLB season gets underway.

The system is far from perfect and will continue to be tweaked, but so far, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke is a huge fan.

"I liked it a lot," Roenicke told reporters Friday. "Some real noise that will get better with the timing of it. But I think even the noise with nothing going on is really good. So they're experimenting with the loudness of it, what the natural crowd would sound like early in the game and what it would be when things are tied and there's excitement in it.

"I thought it was great. I think the players all liked it. At times it was a little loud, and they were experimenting with that. The players said it was a little harder to talk to each other on the field. But as soon as they dropped it back down, it was in a place that was good. I think it's going to create a lot of energy, so I really liked it."

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A totally silent stadium atmosphere would allow teams to hear what the opponents were saying and make strategy tougher, so Roenicke likes that his players and staff can communicate without the entire conversation being heard by everyone in the area.

"It's nice on our part to be able to have conversations and not have the other side hear it," Roenicke said. "And at times it's nice for us to make comments and not have the players hear what you're saying. If we're discussing, maybe, taking a starting pitcher out of a game. There's sometimes comments you make that you'd rather the players not hear that, so it's a benefit to have that noise there. And I've also noticed with these masks on, I don't have to cover my mouth when I'm talking at times, worried about the camera being on me, so that's a real good thing."

One thing the league will try to accomplish is making the crowd noise work for both teams. A scenario where only the home team benefits isn't going to work.

"It will vary from ballpark to ballpark," Roenicke explained. "I'm sure (the league) will have somebody here -- I guess I could say policing it -- making sure, for one, that it's fair for both sides. I'm sure we won't try to get carried away with the things we do. We were discussing it today, Tom Werner was out here, and we were making sure -- it can't all be just positive noise just for the home team. There has to be some kind of noise for the visiting side or when things go bad on our side, because really what happens is the crowd doesn't make a noise whether it's good or bad.

"So trying to make sure we don't do anything that's so one-sided that it's ridiculous, and no one wants it that way. I think that's got to be policed around the league. But everybody's got the opportunity to change those noises and get it to a place where they think it's going to help their team."

The fake crowd noise might be needed for the entire season. Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker recently announced that the state's pro sports team can begin hosting games but without fans. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said late last month that he's "hopeful" fans will be able to attend games at Fenway Park this season, but he's not sure if it will happen at all. 

Former Red Sox Travis Shaw blasts potential fine for leaving Toronto bubble

Former Red Sox Travis Shaw blasts potential fine for leaving Toronto bubble

With baseball summer camps underway, players and teams are trying to navigate the challenges of staying healthy during a shortened 60-game MLB season.

For the Blue Jays, that involved needing to get special clearance from the Canadian government to hold workouts at Rogers Centre, and while there still hasn't been a decision on whether the Jays can play regular-season games at their home ballpark, it appears the Canadian government isn't fooling around with keeping the team's bubble intact — and former Red Sox infielder Travis Shaw isn't having it.

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Shaw responded to a tweet from TSN reporter Scott Mitchell, who stated that players spotted leaving the team's bubble of the stadium and the adjoining hotel would face a $750,000 fine along with potential jail time. 

According to CBC, Shaw also posted two more tweets which have since been deleted.

"1) Let me be clear. We are on board with the TWO week quarantine. I currently have a PAID for condo a block away from the stadium that I can't use. At no point would I risk public safety or not follow rules. Is it wrong to want to live in a place that I've already paid for..."

"2) to be able to go on a walk (WITH A MASK) to be able to get fresh air, walk to go get takeout food (not eat inside). We aren't looking to party, hit the patios, go out at night, anything like that. Public safety is priority number 1...."

Shaw wasn't the only player with a strong reaction to Mitchell's report. Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman, who played for the Jays from 2014-2019, suggested players might take a page out of the Bobby Valentine playbook to get out of the bubble.

The Blue Jays are scheduled to travel to Fenway Park for a pair of exhibition games on July 21 and 22 before opening the regular season in Tampa on July 24. Their first home game is scheduled for July 29, though that is still pending government approval.