Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke and pitching coach Dave Bush held a conference call with reporters Tuesday, providing updates on a trio of injured Sox players (all Twitter links via NESN’s Guerin Austin and MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo).
Perhaps most notably, Roenicke explained that right fielder Alex Verdugo has been swinging a bat, throwing and running as he rehabs a stress fracture in his lower back. Moving his workouts away from the Red Sox’ spring facility following its shutdown has made it more difficult for the club to closely monitor the 23-year-old’s progress, and Verdugo hasn’t yet been able to undergo an MRI to ascertain that his injury has completely healed. However, the Sox remain hopeful that if play is able to resume this year, Verdugo would be ready to participate fully. The centerpiece in Boston’s return for Mookie Betts and David Price, Verdugo slashed .294/.342/.475 with a dozen homers, 22 doubles and a pair of triples in 377 plate appearances with the Dodgers last year.
As for right-hander Collin McHugh, he’s moving more slowly through the early stages of a strengthening program. McHugh underwent a nonsurgical elbow procedure over the winter after finishing the 2019 season on the injured list and has been brought along slowly. The Sox aren’t rushing him through anything with the season in limbo at the moment, and Roenicke indicated that the 32-year-old righty, who signed a one-year deal with Boston in early March, still has quite a ways to go in his rehab. Boston’s final couple of rotation spots remain fairly unsettled — Ryan Weber is the likely fourth starter, and there’s no set fifth starter — although given where McHugh is in his rehab, perhaps he’s better viewed as a potential bullpen piece.
Regarding former franchise cornerstone Dustin Pedroia, it doesn’t seem that the shutdown has provided any new optimism that he could make a return. While he’s still under contract through the 2021 season, Pedroia’s 2020 status has been up in the air since he suffered a “significant” setback in his recovery from repeated left knee troubles that have necessitated a trio of surgeries. He’s played in just nine games over the past two seasons thanks to his increasingly problematic knee, and Roenicke was rather blunt in casting doubt on a potential return for the 36-year-old: “He’s still not a point where he’s thinking about trying to be ready to come back and join us.”