Alex Verdugo makes Fenway return special for Yankees, weird for Red Sox

Yankees' Alex Verdugo-celebrates after hitting a home run against the Red Sox in Boston on June 14, 2024.
Inna Zeyger
Saturday June 15, 2024

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Six months after being traded from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees, outfielder Alex Verdugo has found his stride with his new team. Initially upset about the trade, he showcased his happiness by launching a two-run home run against his former team on the first pitch he faced at Fenway Park on Friday.

Amid boos from the home crowd on Friday, Alex Verdugo celebrated his homer with an emphatic display, pounding his chest, flexing, and shouting toward the Yankees dugout. His efforts were pivotal in leading the Yankees to an 8-1 victory over the Red Sox in front of 35,024 fans.

Reflecting on his return to Fenway, Alex Verdugo described the experience as “special” and “weird.” He noted that while the trade initially felt difficult, he now sees it as beneficial for his career.

“I feel like this trade happened for a reason,” he said. “Looking back at it, it was better for me.”

With a 50-22 record, the Yankees have won 13 of their last 16 games, maintaining their stronghold atop the AL East. Alex Verdugo’s return to Boston was a major storyline, given his popularity with Red Sox fans and past tensions with manager Alex Cora before the offseason trade.

CORRECTS CATCHER TO CONNOR WONG, INSTEAD OF REESE MCGUIRE - New York Yankees’ Alex Verdugo celebrates his two-run home run, next to Boston Red Sox catcher Connor Wong during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, June 14, 2024, in Boston.
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Alex Verdugo patches up with Cora but irks Red Sox

In a pre-game interview, Alex Verdugo downplayed any lingering issues with Cora, emphasizing his contentment with the Yankees. He praised the team for embracing his vibrant personality and their shared focus on winning.

Despite a rain delay that pushed the first pitch to 7:42 p.m., Alex Verdugo made a memorable return with his outstanding performance on the field.

He made a dramatic return to Fenway Park, blasting a first-pitch homer into the center-field seats in the opening inning, propelling the New York Yankees to an early 2-0 lead against his former team. His stellar performance continued throughout the game, with an RBI double off the Green Monster in his third at-bat and an RBI single in the ninth, leading to the Yankees’ 8-1 win over the Boston Red Sox in their first of 13 meetings this season.

After Aaron Judge struck out, Alex Verdugo stepped up against Red Sox starter Brayan Bello (6-4) with two outs. Bello left a changeup over the plate, and he didn’t miss, launching a 406-foot homer over the center-field wall.

Alex Verdugo, known for his animated home run celebrations, rolled his arms between second and third base and pointed excitedly toward the Yankees dugout as he rounded third. He explained that the adrenaline-fueled his actions and emphasized the importance of giving his team an early lead. Alex Verdugo finished the game 3-for-5 with four RBIs, acknowledging the special significance of this series for him.

“I’m just able to be myself,” the outfielder said. “I’m able to show the guys — these guys, they’ve played against me for years and they understand what I bring when I’m out there between the lines. Now they’re seeing it all the way around. I think they just really like the energy that I bring.”

June 14, 2024. Yankees' star Alex Verdugo celebrating after scoring a home run against his former club, Boston Red Sox.

Boone also praised Alex Verdugo’s performance in his return to Boston. He acknowledged that playing against a former team can be a peculiar experience. Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo noted that Alex Verdugo likely would have rejected the idea of playing for the Yankees last year. However, Rizzo found it amusing to see Verdugo traded to a rival team, a rare occurrence in the league.

Boone admired Alex Verdugo’s composure before the game and his immediate impact, hitting a home run on the first pitch and continuing his strong performance throughout the contest. His contributions helped secure the Yankees’ 8-1 victory over the Red Sox, setting the tone for their season series.

Alex Verdugo, after four seasons with the Boston Red Sox, has found a new home with the New York Yankees, seamlessly fitting in both on the field and in the clubhouse. He, who felt his time in Boston had run its course, expressed relief and excitement at being able to showcase his true self and his energy with the Yankees.

Manager Aaron Boone wasted no time reassuring Alex Verdugo after the trade, emphasizing the importance of the outfielder being himself. Boone, along with star teammates Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo, had long advocated for his acquisition, believing he would be a valuable addition to the team.

This enthusiasm from his new team helped Alex Verdugo quickly acclimate and make a significant impact, both in his performance and the clubhouse. His positive energy and seamless integration have been clear indicators of a successful transition, contributing to the Yankees’ cohesive and dynamic atmosphere.

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