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Red Sox Notebook: Why Did Alex Verdugo Point to Crowd After Hitting Home Run? Matt Barnes Could See Injury List Time

Red Sox

Alex Verdugo was the only means of production for the Boston Red Sox Saturday in their 4-2 loss to the Yankees. The team was without Matt Barnes for the second straight day as well. 

Barnes has been dealing with back tightness that could land him on the injured list, though manager Alex Cora hopes he’ll be available for the team’s upcoming three-game weekday series against the Tigers. Cora says that time on the IL is possible though. 

“(Barnes is) going to get on the mound tomorrow and try it. Hopefully, he goes on the mound tomorrow, he’ll be ready for Detroit,” Cora said Saturday. “But if that’s not the case, then we have to start talking about probably an (injured list) stint.”

Verdugo, who has had a strong two games in left field so far this season says he’s aiming for a Gold Glove. The 25-year-old lefty has already matched his defensive runs saved number from last season in the outfield which was 1, though that number was heavily plagued by a mark of -7 in center field. He had 7 in left — the position he’ll likely stay in and won’t need to move to with Jackie Bradley Jr. ready barring Kiké Hernandez needing a replacement A permanent position for Verdugo in left could potentially produce some sturdy defensive numbers and could equate to hardware. 

“I’m going for a Gold Glove,” Verdugo said. “I’ve got to go for a Gold Glove this year. And also, I just figured you can’t do it on the offense side every single time. But the defense side is something we can control. So just try to get anything I can and make it easier on my pitchers.”

As Verdugo was rounding second base after his two-run big fly, he pointed twice. Once to left field, then followed it by pointing toward third base. 

“A bunch of those dudes were talking (in left field) and chanting and talking how they talk with me,” Verdugo said. “So when I rounded second, I wanted to make sure they knew like, ‘Hey, I got you.’

“Obviously rounding third, I pointed at them — just my mom, my girl, and my kid. So just a special moment,” he later added.

Verdugo had an altercation with a fan at Yankee Stadium as a fan chucked a baseball at him — sparking outrage on his part — in left field in July of last year. But, even with that, Verdugo says he enjoys the ruthless Yankee Stadium crowd. 

“Whether I do good or bad, they don’t stop,” he said. “They just keep going. It’s funny though. I like it, man. I really do.”

The left-handed bat spoke on the impact of his homer and how special hitting a homer at Yankee Stadium — especially one of that caliber.

“Honestly, ain’t nothing better than hitting a home run in New York,” Verdugo said. “So it feels good to give the team a lead early and just kind of set the tone. It’s huge. It’s tough that they come back and we don’t score another run all game. But besides that, we’re all about momentum and I think we’re right there. We’re just a click away from everybody firing on the same page.”

The heckling doesn’t get under Verdugo’s skin, he says.

“They should just know it’s hard to get in my skin. It’s hard to get in my head. The guys, they rag me enough on the team. So whatever they say, it’s not a big deal. They bring up family, they bring up everybody. And you’ve just got to chuckle and laugh and just use it as fuel to make a play or get something going.”

Cora speaks on Nick Pivetta, loss

Nick Pivetta allowed two homers in the loss: a pair of two-run shots from Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton. 

Even after walking Aaron Judge to begin the sixth, Cora stuck with Pivetta to face the Yankees’ middle of the order. Cora explained the decision to keep Pivetta in. 

“He was built up to throw 90 (pitches) today and 6 innings,” Cora said about Pivetta. “That’s what we did in spring training. So it’s one of those that yeah, third time through the lineup and all that stuff.”

Pivetta threw 81 pitches, including 50 strikes, 38 four-seam fastballs, 21 sliders, 20 knuckle-curves, and two changeups. He allowed four hits on three walks across 5.2 innings for four runs. 

“The velocity (from Pivetta) was OK,” Cora said. “Just that pitch (to Stanton) … the slider just hung in there… It’s just one of those. We trust our guys. We build them up to give us quality innings early in the season. We just paid the price right there.”

Cora said the Sox were a little bit short in the bullpen Saturday not having Barnes, though Austin Davis, Phillips Valdez, and Hirokazu Sawamura combined for 2.1 scoreless innings of work. The back-end of the bullpen is probably not what the Sox want to use in a 4-2 game in the second game of the year against the Yankees though. 

The manager also notes that the team was without Garrett Whitlock, who threw 38 pitches the day before in Friday’s loss. 

“We are a little bit short in that end not having Barnesy, not having (Garrett Whitlock),” Cora said. “Obviously, the matchup with them is a little bit different with the three lefties that we have. But it is what it is. I don’t think it has anything to do with the bullpen. It’s just a matter of trusting our guy going 6 where we were bullpen-wise today. Because of the Barnesy situation, we were a little bit short.”

Cora says to look at the big picture, as the Sox were 0-3 to start last season — and that was against the Orioles. 

“You’ve got to think about not only today,” Cora said. “We’ve got a game tomorrow. We’ve got three more games in Detroit. And obviously we’re a man down. And Whit was down, too. So you’ve just got to think about the present and the future. And the stuff was good (with Pivetta). We built him up to do this. When you look up and the pitch count and everything, we felt comfortable with him going there.

“Actually, we were talking about where we were going to be aggressive with the bullpen in that inning,” continued Cora. “And it wasn’t actually Stanton. It was after that. He hung a slider. He (Stanton) put it in play. Hit a homer. And we ended up losing the game.”

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