Cody Bellinger may deserve the most credit for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ hot start to 2019, but Alex Verdugo is not far behind. Verdugo has made a constant impact for the Dodgers throughout the first two months of what figures to be his first full Major League season.
He celebrated his 23rd birthday Wednesday by getting the start in center field against the San Diego Padres. In his first at-bat, he promptly singled, stole second base, and scored on a Kenta Maeda’s two-run single that was the difference in a 2-0 win.
Verdugo has received regular praise from teammates and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, with the latest coming prior to first pitch of the series finale agains the Padres.
“I love Alex. He’s definitely grown in all aspects,” Roberts said. “As far as baseball, he’s very mature. Game situations, in the batter’s box, playing defense, on the bases, handling the big stage, the big moment, this guy is very seasoned. He’s been a big part of our success up to this point so far.”
Verdugo also reconnected with Manny Machado, who made his first visit to Dodger Stadium since signing a 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres. Machado, of course, spent the last half of 2018 with the Dodgers, helping them to a second straight National League pennant.
It took some coaxing, but Verdugo appeared to convince Machado into agreeing on a bet that hinges on making the 2019 MLB All-Star Game.
If Alex makes it to the ASG, Manny’s buying him a new chain. 👀 pic.twitter.com/08v9LwRYdo
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) May 15, 2019
If Verdugo keeps playing at the level he has been, he has a good shot at following through on his end of the bargain. His 1.9 wins above replacement per baseball-reference, good for second on the Dodgers behind Bellinger.
That figures to make Verdugo a quality candidate for a reserve spot on Roberts’ NL roster in July. If Verdugo does make the All-Star Game, he would be the third Dodgers rookie in four years to do so after Corey Seager in 2016 and Bellinger in 2017.