Verdugo looking forward to ‘very personal' Fenway return

Verdugo looking forward to ‘very personal' Fenway return originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

This Friday, Alex Verdugo will return to Fenway Park for the first time since being traded to the New York Yankees in December.

The Boston Red Sox parted ways with the veteran outfielder, who they acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the infamous Mookie Betts trade, after four seasons. Although Verdugo had his fair share of positive moments with the club, his 2022 and 2023 campaigns were marred by spats with manager Alex Cora and multiple benchings -- one for a lack of hustle and another for showing up late to Fenway in August.

Verdugo seemed to take a subtle jab at Cora during his introductory Yankees press conference while praising Aaron Boone. He commended the Yankees skipper for having his players' backs instead of airing them out.

The end of Verdugo's Boston tenure undoubtedly left a bitter taste in the mouths of Red Sox fans, and that should make for an interesting reception when he returns for this weekend's series. Verdugo isn't sure what to expect, but he's looking forward to taking on his former team.

“Part of me, I’m excited,” Verdugo said, via's Chris Cotillo. “That’s my favorite ballpark and still is, to this day. I love the atmosphere, I love the layout of it. I’ve got a lot of friends over there on that team, too. To be able to see them is going to be refreshing and nice to see them again. But I’m also excited to play. I know when the game’s on, it’s gonna be competing like no other. I remember it from that side, being with the Red Sox. I expect it to be the same way.

“I’m curious to see how the fans take it, how the first greeting is, I guess,” he added. “I’m open to whatever they do ... It is gonna be a very personal series, just because I was with them for the last four years. But I’m excited about it.”

After having time to reflect on his Red Sox stint, he is grateful for his four years with the club -- especially 2021.

“I really loved the organization,” Verdugo added, per Cotillo. “I really loved wearing the Red Sox jersey and playing for my teammates. It was more of just wanting to be in a winning atmosphere. When we won in ‘21, that was one of the most fun years of my life and it’s because we had a winning team. We went to the ALCS. When you’re winning in Boston, those fans and everything, it feels special out there.

"2021 was my favorite year. The other years were good but it just felt like we were fighting a little bit. We didn’t have the pieces that we needed. To not get them at the trade deadlines was a little bit tougher, too.”

Verdugo has looked comfortable in pinstripes, slashing .261/.317/.432 with eight home runs and 34 RBI while playing Gold Glove defense in left field through 64 games. He's among the reasons the Yankees own the American League's best record at 46-21.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, enter Monday 12.5 games back in the AL East standings at 33-33. Their upcoming series vs. the Yankees will follow another tough three-game set against the best team in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies (45-20).