Alex Verdugo Seizes On Latest Opportunity

Opportunity knocked once for Alex Verdugo and he wasn’t ready for it.

The Dodgers’ top position prospect was a September callup last year, when the club was looking for a lefthanded bench bat for their playoff run. Verdugo had a chance to play his way on to the postseason roster.

He didn’t take advantage of it, batting 4-for-23 (.174) and showing up late for a game during a September road trip.

This spring, however, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts praised Verdugo for showing greater maturity. Roberts said Verdugo’s improved focus and professionalism came from conversations they had last September but also from the 22-year-old’s own initiative.

“It was a combo. But the credit goes to him,” Roberts said of the 2014 second-round pick out of high school in Tucson. “He’s just understanding what our guys do to be successful, and he’s taking it upon himself to make that his own.

“We had a conversation. But it’s got to be the player who has to buy into it. Alex is a player over the past couple years I’ve really tried to get to know and be clear what our expectations are for him.”

Opportunity knocked again at the end of April. Verdugo got the call when Yasiel Puig went on the disabled list. Shortly after, Corey Seager was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery. The Dodgers moved Chris Taylor from center field to shortstop—opening the door for the Verdugo.

“For me, it’s knowledge,” Verdugo said of the lesson he learned from last September. “I was up there for a month. I got to see the game. I got to interact with the players. For me, I watch the Dodgers. Even when I was in the minors, I watched the big leaguers . . .

“Just to be out here and see them play, see them work, see their work ethic—that’s what I took from that experience. It’s not a game up here. Everybody handles their business and makes sure they’re ready. Now it’s more, ‘What can I do to stay? What can I do to prove myself?’ ”

Verdugo got off to a good start with eights hits in his first 28 at-bats (four for extra bases) and Roberts said he loves “his at-bat quality.”

And Verdugo has a road map to follow. The Dodgers called up Cody Bellinger in late April last year, on his way to a unanimous selection as the NL Rookie of the Year.

“I look at Belly,” Verdugo said. “He got his chance and it was only supposed to be for a short time. But he took it and ran with it.”

>> Triple-A Oklahoma City outfielder Andrew Toles went 12-for-26 (.462) in six games before suffering a hamstring injury that kept him out of action through mid-May.

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