Alex Verdugo

Red Sox OF Alex Verdugo says he's 100 percent healed from back injury, ready to play

Red Sox OF Alex Verdugo says he's 100 percent healed from back injury, ready to play

Alex Verdugo says he's healthy and ready to return to action, provided baseball is played this year.

The Red Sox outfielder, acquired from the Dodgers for MVP Mookie Betts, arrived with a fracture in his back that would have kept him from starting the season in the big leagues. But after an extra month of rest and rehab, Verdugo told reporters on a conference call on Monday that he's healed and 100 percent.

"Whenever the season starts, I think I'll be ready," he said. "Whether it's soon, whether it's a few months down the road, or whatever that may be, I think I'm physically ready."

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With baseball's future up in the air while the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic, Verdugo was asked how long he'll need to prepare to be ready for game action.

"I think what it would take a normal player is what it would take me, maybe even less now, because I'm already doing everything," he said. "I'm staying on my hitting, my running, conditioning, working out, throwing. I've been doing all that. All I've been doing is kind of adding to it. We started off with 20 throws. Then we go to 30, now we're 60, 90 throws a day. Once you start building up all that, your endurance, you start seeing that you're ready."

That's a welcome change from the start of his rehab, when even a handful of throws left him exhausted.

"When I first started rehabbing, after a couple of throws, I felt gassed, I felt fatigued, I felt tired," he said. "Now it's taking 60 throws, 65 throws, and then after that, 'OK, I'm a little bit tired now.' But just working our way up. The more swings we're taking every day, the more weights we're pushing in the weight room. I don't really think it's going to take two or three weeks. It's just going to be whatever the ramp-up period would be for anybody."

There's no question the Red Sox will be leaning heavily on Verdugo to pick up the slack in Betts' absence. The 23-year-old hit .294 with an .817 OPS last year before the back injury sidelined him in August. When healthy, the left-handed hitter has a line drive stroke to all fields, and he also plays with an infectious energy.

"I play 100 percent," he said. "I go all out. I think the good thing is seeing when I was hurt, I was having trouble sleeping because I had pain in my back. I was having trouble moving, bending over, putting socks on. It's like, you go from that to healing yourself and the mental grind of going through physical pain every day, but then you start realizing, the more you push through these boundaries, your body gets better, it adjusts, it adapts and it overcomes any obstacle you put it through.

"For me, that's a good position mentally and physically that I'm not worried about that. I'm ready to go and just play. I know that if I play and feel the way I feel right now, my numbers will be what they always have been. I'll be able to play at 100 percent with no feelings of injury."

Alex Verdugo admits it 'would be pretty crazy' if Mookie Betts never plays for Dodgers

Alex Verdugo admits it 'would be pretty crazy' if Mookie Betts never plays for Dodgers

Here's one way the Red Sox win the Mookie Betts trade: if Betts never plays a game with the Dodgers.

That possibility was put to one of the centerpieces of the trade, Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo, on a conference call on Monday.

"That would be pretty crazy," Verdugo said. "That would be pretty nuts. I really haven't thought about it that much, but I think it's a tough situation if that is the scenario for the Dodgers, but hey, that's part of life, right? We can't expect these things. For the Dodgers, that's a tough deal."

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If there's no baseball season because of the coronavirus pandemic, then Betts would gain a year of service time and become a free agent. His pending free agency is what led the Red Sox to move him in the first place, since they did not trust they'd be able to keep him.

Now there's a possibility they'll have the same chance of acquiring him as anyone else, with his only memorable headline in a Dodgers cap being his introductory press conference.

Verdugo, meanwhile, isn't going anywhere. He won't be eligible for arbitration until after the 2021 season and he won't reach free agency until the conclusion of the 2024 season.

"That's important from a business standpoint, but as a player, me personally, I just care about playing," Verdugo said. "I'm not thinking about service time like that."

Mookie Betts: 'It was super weird' wearing Dodger blue at first

Mookie Betts: 'It was super weird' wearing Dodger blue at first

In mid-February, the Boston Red Sox made the franchise-altering decision to trade Mookie Betts in the final year of his contract. The former AL MVP was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for a few prospects, Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong.

Red Sox fans are still getting used to the idea of Betts playing for the Dodgers. But so is Betts. In fact, when he first donned the Dodger blue, he thought it was "weird" but eventually, his mother convinced him that it was fine.

“It was weird,” Betts said in a recent interview with Dodgers broadcaster Joe Davis. "It took my mom calling to say, ‘You look good in blue’ before I accepted it. Accepted the blue. It was super weird."

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Once Betts got over that fact, he was quickly able to adjust to life in Los Angeles before the coronavirus pandemic shut down MLB.

"It didn’t take long to get used to," Betts said. "The guys in there made it so seamless, that it was just like home. It was really home by the time all this stuff happened. I definitely miss it."

It certainly seems that Betts likes his new home in Los Angeles, which indicates there's a chance that he will stay there long-term. But nothing is certain at the moment. And the longer that MLB's season is delayed, the possibility that Betts will hit free agency without ever playing a game for the Dodgers increases.

We're not at that point yet. And baseball is seemingly doing everything they can to get things up and running in the near future. But it's something to keep an eye on given that Betts will be a free agent this offseason no matter what happens with baseball, per the deal the MLB Players' Association agreed to with the league.

Either way, this just serves as a reminder that Betts is no longer on the Red Sox. They'll be moving forward with an outfield that is made up of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, and Verdugo, who recently began swinging a bat again after dealing with a stress fracture in his back.