FORT MYERS, Fla. — Alex Verdugo might not be healthy enough to start his first season with the Red Sox.

According to the Boston Globe, Verdugo, who was sent to Boston with Jeter Downs and Connor Wong for Mookie Betts, David Price and money, might postpone his Red Sox debut as he battles a back injury that stopped his 2019 season in early August.

According to the report, the Red Sox knew about the injury and “did not view the issue as a significant long-term concern when they examined Verdugo’s medical history prior to completing the trade. The team will wait to make a more precise evaluation of his expected timetable to play once Verdugo can be seen by the team’s medical staff.”

Verdugo didn’t play after Aug. 4 last year with what MLB.com called a back/oblique/core injury.

The Red Sox open March 26 at Toronto.

THE RED SOX agreed to a one-year contract in the $4 million range with outfielder Kevin Pillar, a source confirmed to MassLive.com.

The 31-year-old batted .259 with a .287 on-base percentage, .432 slugging percentage, .719 OPS, 21 homers, 37 doubles, three triples and 88 RBI in 161 games last year between the Blue Jays and Giants.

Pillar, a right-handed hitter, is known as a strong defensive outfielder.

ADD ANDREW BENINTENDI among those who think the Boston Red Sox will be cleared once Major League Baseball’s investigation into the 2018 championship team is released.

The league is still working on its report on illegal sign-stealing allegations against the Red Sox during the 2018 season, and discipline and punishment will be light, according to media reports. When asked if it’s important to get the results of the report out of the way Thursday morning at JetBlue Park, Benintendi was moving forward but claimed the team’s innocence.

“I think we’re all just looking forward to 2020,” Benintendi said. “I think all of us are confident in what’s going to come out, and all we can do is focus on baseball and there’s a lot of distractions obviously, and I think we’re all just ready to focus on this year.”

Benintendi was asked why he felt so confident.

“I know we know what’s going on and that we didn’t do anything,” Benintendi said. “As far as what the report’s gonna say, whatever it says, it says, and like I said, we’re just focused on this year and that’s all we can focus on.”

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom also defended the organization Thursday, saying that he doesn’t “have any reason to think that anything untoward went on” in regard to Boston using electronics to illegally steal signs in 2018.

“I don’t have any reason to think anything went on,” Bloom said during an interview on WEEI radio. “I’m careful what I say because I do want to respect the investigation. I think we have to respect it.”

Bloom has been mum on the topic to this point, repeatedly declining comment on anything related to the investigation. His comments Thursday suggest the Red Sox are anticipating the league’s report on the matter with a significant deal of confidence.

“As far as the investigation, I think Major League Baseball has the ability to do that on a much larger scale than we do,” Bloom said. “That’s exactly what they’re doing. Our job is really just to fully cooperate with what they’re doing. We’ve been doing that. It obviously is there and is kind of looming over the organization in a sense. On a day-to-day level, I don’t think it’s interfered that much with a lot of the things we’re trying to do.”

DUSTIN PEDROIA will not be in attendance at Boston Red Sox spring training camp when position players are required to report on Monday.

“He’s still sore,” interim manager Ron Roenicke said Thursday at JetBlue Park. “The knee is still sore. So the setback is still there. He won’t be here Monday. And he’s just going to try to evaluate what happens here. He’s going to continue to talk to the people in Arizona and (head trainer) Brad (Pearson) to figure out what the next step is and where he goes from it.”

Pedroia has appeared in only nine games the past two seasons. He underwent a cartilage restoration procedure Oct. 25, 2017. He had scar tissue removed during an arthroscopic surgery in late July 2018, then had a joint preservation procedure on his knee in August 2019.

Pedroia already has expressed uncertainty about whether he’ll ever play in the major leagues again.

“He’s a special player,” Roenicke said. “And it’s not just the MVP. It’s just watching him the way he plays. The energy he brings to a team. He’s a great player, too. But just doing things the right way: playing the great defense and getting on base. And slapping the ball to right field when he needs to. And driving the ball when he needs to. It was never comfortable on the other side having to face him, especially when the game’s on the line.”

THE RED SOX will make their $48 million in payments to the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the David Price and Mookie Betts trade in 18 equal installments over the next three years.

Boston will send Los Angeles $2,666,667 on the 15th of each month from April through September in 2020, 2021 and 2022 as part of the deal announced Monday, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.

The $48 million is equal to half of what Price is owed for the remainder of the $217 million, seven-year contract he agreed to with Boston ahead of the 2016 season. He is due $32 million in each of the next three seasons.

Betts has a $27 million salary this year and is eligible for free agency.

Boston’s net savings of $43 million this year – Betts’ salary and half of Price’s – drops the team’s projected luxury tax payroll below the $208 million threshold.

The Red Sox paid $11.95 million in tax following their World Series title in 2018 and $13.4 million in tax after missing the playoffs last year.

If the Red Sox exceed the threshold for the third straight season, they would pay at a 50% rate on the first $20 million over, a 62% rate on the amount over $228 million and a 95% rate on the amount above $248 million.


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