New York Yankees' Alex Verdugo leaves the batter's box on...

New York Yankees' Alex Verdugo leaves the batter's box on his two-run home run, in front of Boston Red Sox catcher Reese McGuire during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, June 14, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Credit: AP/Michael Dwyer

BOSTON — Alex Verdugo, in his words, was “upset” and didn’t really “take it the best” when the Red Sox traded him to the Yankees last December during the winter meetings.

It did not take him long to get over the disappointment — just as it did not take him long to impact his first game against his former team, as he hit a 406-foot two-run homer over the centerfield wall on the first pitch he saw in the first inning Friday night.

“We sat down, we started thinking about all the positive sides of going to the Yankees, what they had to offer and the amazing organization they are,” Verdugo said before the rain-delayed game against the Red Sox, whom he played for from 2020-23.

Verdugo, who wore a bushy beard throughout most of his previous seven years in the majors, smiled before referencing the Yankees’ no-beards policy.

“So we quickly then shaved and kind of got off on the right foot with them,” he said. “I’m a big believer everything happens for a reason, whether it’s good things [or] bad things, I feel like this trade happened for a reason. And looking back at it, it’s been better for me.”

That is an understatement. Behind the scenes, Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo had been pushing the Yankees to acquire him to fill their gaping hole in leftfield. Verdugo, a free spirit, instantly fit into the clubhouse in spring training and quickly became one of its most popular players.

Verdugo, who labeled his teammates as “Dawgs” after a couple of comeback victories in Houston in the season-opening series — the T-shirts soon began rolling off the production line — is a leading clubhouse practitioner of verbal barbs. An always amused Judge is among his many targets.

And that has worked both ways. In the days leading up to this series, Verdugo was on the receiving end of that, with teammates lobbing questions/statements his way about the reception Boston fans would give him and the level of booing he might endure. One teammate — no one would say who, but Rizzo is a leading suspect — jokingly referenced a potential “tribute video” that might play at Fenway.

During pregame introductions Friday, Verdugo was booed at the same level as Juan Soto and Aaron Judge — which is to say, loud. As he rounded the bases after his home run, he practically danced, even pounding his chest and pumping his right arm as the crowd booed, but plenty of Yankees fans could be heard cheering him on. He reacted as if he had homered in Game 7 of the World Series, and the reaction was similar in the visitor’s dugout.

Verdugo had an RBI double off the leftfield wall in the fifth to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead.

“I’m just able to be myself,” he said before the game. “These guys, they played against me for years and they understand what I bring when I’m there in between the lines, and now they’re seeing it all the way around, and I think they just really like the energy I bring. I’m 100% me.”

Verdugo, who was obtained for righthanders Greg Weissert, Richard Fitts and Nicholas Judice, had a memorable final season with the Red Sox, but not for many positive reasons.

Those included a few run-ins with manager Alex Cora, who benched Verdugo in June for a lack of hustle and in August for showing up late for a game. Verdugo, other than struggling at times to keep the bus times straight (another source of amusement in his new clubhouse), has been a model citizen this season.

As far as Cora goes, Verdugo said there are no lingering issues there, something he has stated multiple times when asked.

“I’ve said it before,” Verdugo said Friday. “Our families like each other, our kids like each other, off the field we have no problems at all. Just a couple of minor things we bumped heads on. Really, I have nothing but respect for AC. Hope for the best for him as a manager, as a father, as a person and wherever life takes him. We’re still friends.”

Though Verdugo has played almost exclusively in leftfield for the Yankees, he started in rightfield Friday night and likely will do so the entirety of this series, with Soto playing left.

Aaron Boone said the switch was made primarily because of the quirky nature of rightfield at Fenway Park — complete with the Pesky Pole just 302 feet from home plate — and Verdugo’s experience playing there while with the Red Sox. (Leftfield, with the Green Monster towering above, obviously has its quirks, too.)

“Something we talked about in spring, this was going to be the one place that I was going to flip them this year,” Boone said before the game. “Obviously, this is a very unique rightfield, like our leftfield is very unique. Rightfield here is about as unique as it gets in baseball, and with Doogie’s experience playing rightfield here, it was something we talked about doing in the spring, and when I brought it to the guys over the last couple days, they were both on board.”

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