Yankees’ Alex Verdugo taking batting practice in spring training in...

Yankees’ Alex Verdugo taking batting practice in spring training in Tampa, FL on Tuesday Feb. 13, 2024. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. — Alex Verdugo becoming a Yankee finally came to fruition during the offseason.

And two of the primary leaders in the Yankees' clubhouse — Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo — could not have been more pleased.

“He told me he’s kind of been pushing for like the last couple of years,” Verdugo said of Judge. “I mean, Rizzo’s dropping hints at me on first base during the years, too. Like, ‘Hey, we’re trying to get you.’ I’d tell him, ‘Nah, no way, man, no way.’ As soon as I came over here, Rizz was like, ‘I told you, I told you.’ It’s cool to know some guys have been pushing for me to come over here. They like the way I play and the kind of flair that I bring.”

Yankees outfielder Alex Verdugo while taking batting practice in spring training. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Yankees, who entered the offseason with their top priority being the addition of lefthanded-hitting outfielders, acquired Verdugo from the Red Sox in early December for righthanders Greg Weissert, Richard Fitts and Nicholas Judice. (Their biggest outfield addition would come a couple of days later when they dealt for the lefty-swinging Juan Soto.)

Verdugo, 27, hit .264 with 13 homers and a .745 OPS in 142 games last season for the Red Sox, for whom he played four years after spending the first three years of his big-league career with the Dodgers.

Verdugo, who can play all three outfield positions (though he’s expected to mostly man leftfield for the Yankees), arrived with his share of baggage. That includes a couple of run-ins last season with his former manager,  Alex Cora, who benched him in June for a lack of hustle and in August for showing up to a game late.

The fiery Cora  did not exactly portray himself as a manager in mourning at the winter meetings after the deal was consummated.

Verdugo said he was fine (though with a couple of qualifiers) with Cora, generally considered a players’ manager.

“Effort’s one thing you can always control,” Verdugo said. “In certain ways, AC [Cora] was hard on me, but I don’t have any hard feelings toward him. It’s one of those things toward the end, we kind of ran our course out a little bit. But as a person and outside of baseball, I loved him. I loved his kids, his family was awesome . . . It’s one of those things that, it’s a little bit weird because outside of the game, he was great. Even as a manager, he’s a good manager, it’s just we were clashing heads a little bit toward the end. For me, I hope [for] him the best, but I’m very happy where I am right now.”

Which is New York and in a clubhouse with Judge, Rizzo, Soto, Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, etc., a team very much expected to contend for the AL East title.

“To come over here, to know that they wanted me here and to be able to talk shop to and pick their brains, it’s cool, man,” Verdugo said. “We’ve got some MVPs out here, we’ve got some guys that won some batting titles, a lot of useful knowledge out there. I’m just trying to soak it all in.”

As for Verdugo's past, Aaron Boone said it’s exactly that.

“It’s definitely a fresh start,” he said. “A lot of us in the organization, any time we’re acquiring someone, you try and do your homework and find out what you can. But he walks in here with a blank slate as a guy that a lot of people in that room have a lot of respect for.”

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