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How Alex Verdugo is settling in, finding his way with the Yankees

PHOENIX – Alex Verdugo’s first big Yankees moment came off Broadway, with a home run he thoroughly enjoyed.

“I think the fans enjoyed it,’’ Aaron Judge said of the reaction Wednesday afternoon at Chase Field, half of which felt like Yankee Stadium West this series. “We definitely enjoyed it.’’

That 10th inning, two-run blast by Verdugo gave the Yankees a two-run lead, but they’d need two more runs in the 11th – including a Judge RBI double – to outlast the Arizona Diamondbacks.

And now, “we’re looking forward to playing in the Bronx,’’ said Verdugo, after the Yankees’ 6-5 win sent them home with six wins in seven games to open the 2024 season.

A different Bronx cheer awaiting Alex Verdugo

Apr 3, 2024; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; New York Yankees outfielder Alex Verdugo celebrates after hitting a two run home run in the tenth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2024; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; New York Yankees outfielder Alex Verdugo celebrates after hitting a two run home run in the tenth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Judge and Juan Soto will hear some raucous cheers in Friday’s home-opening introductions, but a certain ex-Red Sox – having embraced the Pinstriped Way – is already charged up for the Stadium’s applause.

“For me, the transition has been great,’’ Verdugo said of the welcome from staff and players, who are “just letting me be myself and the person I am.

“And everybody seems to gravitate and like kind of what I’m bringing to the table.’’

That includes the newest dugout celebration for 2024, a bunch of barking Yankees – a reaction to Verdugo’s description of the Yankees as “dawgs’’ for their tenacious attitude.

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“To get my first (homer as a Yankee) in a big spot like that, it felt good,’’ Verdugo said of seeing his teammates “get fired up, everybody’s barking at me.

“I’ve got nothing but praise to say to my teammates for making this transition super easy.’’

Alex Verdugo's first Yankee homer, in a huge spot

Leading off the 10th, with the ghost runner on second base, Verdugo jumped on a first-pitch 96-mph fastball by right-hander Kevin Ginkel.

“I wish he would’ve taken some time to admire it,’’ quipped manager Aaron Boone.

After a long stare, watching the ball sail to the right field stands, Verdugo calmly flipped the bat and you could’ve flipped channels a few times before returning to watch him cross the plate.

Apr 3, 2024; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; New York Yankees outfielder Alex Verdugo hits a two run home run in the tenth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2024; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; New York Yankees outfielder Alex Verdugo hits a two run home run in the tenth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This was also an Arizona homecoming for Verdugo. Coming across the plate, the lefty hitter pointed in the stands, where his parents, siblings and a section of friends and relatives cheered him on.

“There’s always a line. Doogie didn’t come close to it there in my eyes,’’ Boone said of Verdugo’s celebration. “That’s a big home run in a big spot right there.

“He’s had such an impactful trip for us,’’ said Boone, though much of that had been defensively in left field.

At the plate, Verdugo was 3-for-24 before the homer, feeling close to breaking out but not quite there.

Being able to finally contribute offensively “was really huge,’’ Verdugo said. “We’ve got a good squad and everything feels great.’’

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Verdugo had arrived via trade from Boston in December with some questions, having been disciplined for occasions of lateness and hustle by Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

This spring training, Verdugo suggested that it was partly due to playing through injury, though he was not specific. But Judge, the Yankees captain, and Anthony Rizzo were among those who lobbied for Verdugo to be a Yankee.

“The guy’s a gamer,’’ said Judge. “The most important thing is you win with people.

“You get the right people in the room, you get the right people in their positions, hopefully you’re going to get better results,’’ Judge said. “And right now we’re getting results and we’ve just got to keep doing this at home.’’

In the big picture, “a week doesn’t really do too much’’ in a 162-game season, even after sweeping four games at Houston and taking a road series from the defending NL champs.

“But to start off a week like this and keep the momentum going is huge,’’ Verdugo said. “Everybody here is talented and knows what we can do.

“You have to go out every day and have that dawg inside of you,’’ said Verdugo. “It’s not always going to come easy, you’ve got to sometimes fight. And I think we’ve been doing a really good job of that.’’

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Alex Verdugo finding way with Yankees after trade from Red Sox