Alex Verdugo, Alex Cora believe narrative over relationship is overblown

Red Sox

Cora disciplined Verdugo on multiple occasions last season before his trade to the Yankees.

Alex Verdugo played under Alex Cora for three seasons with the Red Sox. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Alex Verdugo and Alex Cora insisted that whatever tension existed between them was overhyped as the outfielder plays his first games against his former team this weekend.

Ahead of the Yankees’ 8-1 win on Friday, Verdugo told reporters that he’s cool with Cora as the two were seen having a conversation during batting practice.

“I’m a little tired of talking about A.C. and talking about the Red Sox because of the way it ended,” Verdugo said. “We’re still friends. Media and people want to blow it up however they want to blow it up but it was a simple thing that two men didn’t agree on something and bumped heads. We’re still men and we kinda reconciled when we talked to each other. I don’t want the media to keep putting it out that we don’t have this friendship.

“I feel like for me and him, we’re fine. We’re good. Our families like each other, our kids like each other. I think, off the field, we have no problems at all. There were just a couple minor things we bumped heads on and that’s fine. Not everybody is gonna always agree with things. I’ve got nothing but respect for A.C. and hope him the best as a manager, as a father, as a person outside of baseball, and wherever life takes him.”

Verdugo was disciplined by Cora on multiple occasions last season due to effort and tardiness. The Red Sox manager removed Verdugo late in a game against the Guardians last June when he believed the outfielder was “not busting his behind” on the basepaths on one play. He benched Verdugo for the following game.

Two months later, Verdugo got in trouble with Cora again for arriving at Fenway Park late for a game against the Blue Jays. Verdugo was benched as Cora said at the time that it was “probably one of my worst days here in this organization.”

When the Red Sox traded Verdugo in December, he admitted that he was “mad” and “hot” over the situation. He also made comments that some perceived to be a shot at Cora, saying that Yankees manager Aaron Boone has “his players’ backs” instead of “airing people out.”

However, Cora shared a similar feeling as Verdugo did about their relationship on Friday.

“We have a good relationship,” Cora told reporters. “It just happened that last year, it became public. I don’t understand what the big deal is. We aren’t here to criticize players or celebrate players when they don’t show up on time or show up on time. It just happened that day, I felt he was late and I took him out of the lineup. I think that’s a big deal here but it should not be that big of a deal.”

Verdugo has fit in well with his new home so far. He’s slashing .266/.319/.438 and has acclimated to his new position in left field well, committing zero errors through 2.5 months.

Verdugo also gave his old team a taste of what they’re missing on Friday. He crushed the first pitch he saw into the bleachers in center field for a two-run home run off Brayan Bello. As he rounded the bases for his ninth home run of the year, Verdugo was notably excited. He pounded his chest and yelled toward the fans and the Yankees’ dugout.

“It felt like a lot of relief for me, and also just a lot of anticipation for this matchup,” Verdugo told reporters of his homer following Friday’s game. “It was pure adrenaline, just fired up. Wasn’t really expecting to swing at the first pitch and to put it out of the ballpark and give us the early 2-0 lead was big.

“I kind of let a little yell out when I rounded first, and when I hit second, I saw my dugout going crazy, so I just kind of lost it again.”

Cora didn’t have an issue with Verdugo’s celebration.

“Not at all,” Cora said when asked if he was bothered by it.

As Verdugo has done well hitting cleanup for the best team in baseball, Cora also isn’t bothered by the trade.

“We got three good pitchers and we had some good players in the outfield,” Cora said. “Where we were as an organization, we were trying to maximize his value and I think we killed it. … It opened the door for us to play other guys. We have [Tyler O’Neill], Jarren [Duran], [Wilyer] Abreu and [Ceddanne] Rafaela. Where we were roster-wise and the plan going into the season, it was the right time.

“Dugie’s an excellent player. But we took another path, got three good pitchers and both organizations have won in this trade.”

Abreu, who’s currently on the injured list for an ankle injury, has slashed .272/.344/.485 with six homers, 22 RBIs, and seven stolen bases in 53 games as he’s replaced Verdugo as the team’s primary right fielder.

As for the three pitchers the Red Sox got in the trade, Richard Fitts is 4-2 with a 4.02 ERA in 10 starts for Triple-A Worcester. Greg Weissert has a 2.83 ERA in 29 relief appearances for the Red Sox this season. Meanwhile, Nicholas Judice has only made two appearances in Rookie ball in 2024.

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