For all that Cody Bellinger has done this season to anchor the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup, contributions from Alex Verdugo cannot be overlooked. After dominating for Triple-A Oklahoma City over the past two years, he was given an opportunity at the Major League level.
Though, whereas Verdugo was an everyday player for OKC, making the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster meant doing so as the fourth outfielder. The 22-year-old thrived in spot starts and pinch-hit opportunities, lending to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts saying Verdugo was deserving of more chances.
One of those came on what amounted to a three-hit night against the Cincinnati Reds. Verdugo punctuated the performance with a two-run double in the eighth inning after the Reds intentionally walked Kiké Hernandez.
It led to Verdugo celebrating and shouting back to the Dodgers dugout, which spawned a celebration, per Pedro Moura of The Athletic:
“Don’t let the kid get hot!” he shouted, grinning as widely as any human can grin. “Don’t let the kid get hot!”
After each hit since, the Dodgers have shouted back at him: “Now the kid’s getting hot!”
Making his extra-base hit all the more impressive was it came against a left-handed relief pitcher. Although Verdugo understood the Reds’ strategy from a baseball perspective, he admitted to feeling some disrespect and additional motivation to deliver for the Dodgers.
The exuberance Verdugo plays with is reminiscent of the energy Kiké Hernandez has provided over the past few seasons. Should Verdugo follow along the same trajectory, he’ll be in line to eventually become a regular starter for the Dodgers.