The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will face off for the first time this season in a three-game series at Fenway Park this weekend. This marks a late start to their storied rivalry, thanks to MLB’s new and more balanced schedule that has spread out divisional matchups.

This series will be noteworthy for Alex Verdugo, who will make his first return to Fenway Park after being traded to the Yankees in the offseason. New York acquired Verdugo in exchange for three pitching prospects in a rare transaction between the rivals. The outfielder has posted a solid .261/.317/.432 line with stellar defense in 2024, following a four-year stint with Boston, where he slashed .281/.338/.424.

Verdugo expressed mixed emotions about his return to Fenway, unsure if he will be greeted with cheers or boos from Red Sox fans, “I’m open to whatever they do,” he told MassLive. Reflecting on his time in Boston, Verdugo desired a more aggressive approach at past trade deadlines, especially after the team’s successful 2021 campaign.

“I really loved the organization,” Verdugo said. “I really loved wearing the Red Sox jersey and playing for my teammates. It was more of just wanting to be in a winning atmosphere. When we won in ’21, that was one of the most fun years of my life and it’s because we had a winning team. We went to the ALCS. When you’re winning in Boston, those fans and everything, it feels special out there.”

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Verdugo’s comments highlight a period of frustration for Red Sox fans and players alike. In 2022 and 2023, Boston was within striking distance of a wild-card spot at the trade deadlines but made only modest moves. The indecisive approach contributed to the eventual dismissal of lead executive Chaim Bloom last September.

The 2020 trade that brought Verdugo to Boston and Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers placed expectations on him. Despite flashes of brilliance, Verdugo’s tenure displayed inconsistency and issues such as poor baserunning and tardiness, which led to his benching last season.

Since joining the Yankees, Verdugo has avoided such controversies, likely motivated by his impending free agency. During his introductory press conference, he praised Yankees manager Aaron Boone, subtly contrasting Boone’s approach with that of Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

With Verdugo’s contribution, the Yankees sit atop the AL East with a 46-21 record. The Red Sox, meanwhile, are in third place at 33-33, trailing the third wild-card spot by 1.5 games as the two teams prepare for their first clash of the season.

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