FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo is recovering from a stress fracture in his back and probably won't be ready for Opening Day, though the Red Sox said Saturday they do not anticipate long-term issues.
Verdugo traces the injury to his first exposure to Tampa Bay's turf last May. An oblique strain exacerbated the issue, and he shut things down in August. He made one rehab appearance in September before feeling acute pain on his first swing, and he hasn't played since.
"I was dealing with a little bit of stiffness, something I could get treatment on and work through it and then feel good," Verdugo said. "Then we played in Tampa Bay and obviously playing on the turf out there, I think it kind of just blew out my back a little bit as my first time really being on turf with metal spikes. And just after that, I felt a lot more discomfort."
Tests revealed an L-5 fracture, according to Verdugo. Manager Ron Roenicke said the Red Sox were aware of the injury before acquiring Verdugo from the Dodgers as the centerpiece of the Mookie Betts trade.
"It's healing nice and the images that he's taken through the offseason, it continues to heal," Roenicke said. "It's not healed completely, but it's in a progression where they're really liking how it's coming along. It's an injury that takes time. It takes a lot of time for this to heal. It's an injury that is fairly common in baseball because of the rotation – it's a rotation issue. So our trainers are familiar with it and we'll take him as the steps come, not only what the images show but his response to things."
Roenicke added that the Red Sox won't rush anything.
"To be honest with you, if everything goes right, he still may not be ready for Opening Day," Roenicke said.
That's OK with Verdugo, who's considering the big picture.
"We have something that we can draw out and kind of know the exact timeframe of it, whether it's to be ready for the start of the season or slightly after," Verdugo said. "We're not really sure. We're not trying to rush that. We don't want to give fans or give people false hope or just even a deadline that we miss again. So we're going to take our time and make sure that we're right. So that way, when I am playing, when I'm able to be in Boston, that it's the whole year and it's continuous."