Alex Verdugo begin included on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Opening Day roster was largely perceived as a foregone conclusion. He had produced back-to-back stellar seasons with Triple-A Oklahoma City and didn’t have anything more to prove with the affiliate.
There was some competition during Spring Training, however, as Brad Miller put together an impressive showing. But any potential roster crunch was alleviated when Miller opted out of his Minor League contract to become a free agent and sign with the Cleveland Indians.
So Verdugo was with the Dodgers on Opening Day as depth in the outfield. He initially received pinch-hit opportunities and an occasional start before earning more playing time. Verdugo then was thrust into the lineup on a regular basis when A.J. Pollock underwent elbow surgery.
The rookie continued to find success before hitting a recent skid. Now after consecutive multi-hit games, Verdugo discussed the need for a positive focus amid the slump, per Rowan Kavner of Dodger Insider:
“You’ve got to have that mindset that you’re going to get out of it and things are going to get better that next at-bat,” Verdugo said.
Aside from the positive implications of Verdugo going 2-for-3 with a double and walk in the Dodgers’ win against the Chicago Cubs, was his ability to use the opposite side of the field. That typically is one indication of a batter staying on the ball and not compromising his mechanics.
While Verdugo went hitless over four games, it’s plausible lingering back tightness was a factor. He first experienced the trouble the series after the Dodgers played at Tropicana Field last month. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts surmised playing on the turf was a factor.
Even as Verdugo has been limited in some regard and experienced the first slump of his young Major League career, he is still batting .303/.361/.465 with 14 doubles, two triples, four home runs and 28 RBI. Verdugo is second among rookies in doubles and fourth in on-base percentage.
The 23-year-old previously attributed his success to teammates creating a welcoming environment in the clubhouse. “I feel like a lot of the guys know that I mean well,” Verdugo recently said. “Everything I that I do, I play hard. I try to do anything that I can to help the team.
“I think I worried about it more in ’17 and ’18 and kind of tried to act a certain way that I thought they would like. Now this year it’s kind of just being myself. I feel like everybody has really opened up to it and they can kind of see it’s genuine and I’m here just having a good and playing hard.”