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.