PAWTUCKET â€“ The newest member of the PawSox pitching staff had a familiar face waiting to greet him at T.F. Green Airport.
Make that a good friend who also doubles as an offseason housemate down in Baton Rouge.
Mentioning the Louisiana city is fitting because thatâ€™s where Ryan Verdugo learned earlier in the week that he had been traded from Kansas City to Boston for cash considerations.
More specifically, the 27-year-old pitcher received a phone call from Royals Director of Player Development Scott Sharp while working out at the baseball facility on the campus of Louisiana State University.
In Verdugoâ€™s company was none other than Anthony Ranaudo, a former LSU teammate of the lefthanderâ€™s.
â€śWe were just walking through the facility and he got the call. It was pretty funny,â€ť said Ranaudo, who earlier Friday was assigned with the task of picking up Verdugo and bringing his fellow Tiger to his temporary hotel accommodations in downtown Providence.
From Verdugoâ€™s perspective, â€śI just happened to be standing next to (Ranaudo), so that was pretty cool. It just kind of comes out of nowhere. Like the first time I got traded to the Royals, I was playing golf with my dad in the offseason. And this time I was hanging out in the All-Star break in Baton Rouge and just get a phone call. It happens like that.â€ť
Verdugo and Ranaudo have known each other since entering LSU simultaneously in 2008 â€“ the former was coming from junior college while the latter heading into his freshman year. They were practically locker neighbors for the one collegiate season they played together.
â€śWe got to know each other pretty well but we became better friends when he left LSU and came back in the offseason to work out. Once I got into pro ball, he was one of the only pitchers in town that was there working out so we worked out more and stuff like that,â€ť Ranaudo explained. â€śThe following year, he moved into my house and rented a room. Weâ€™ve lived together the last three or four years in the offseason in Baton Rouge.â€ť
Sports hernia surgery delayed Verdugoâ€™s availability at the start of the season. Pitching exclusively in a starting capacity for Kansas Cityâ€™s Triple-A affiliate in Omaha, Verdugo went 5-2 with a 4.24 ERA in nine starts. Drafted by San Francisco in the ninth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft before getting traded to Kansas City in 2011, Verdugo has appeared in 159 minor-league games spanning seven professional seasons.
His lone appearance in the majors came with the Royals in 2012, 1.2-inning stint that saw him surrender six runs on eight hits.
With space tight in Pawtucketâ€™s rotation, Verdugo will join Tommy Layne and Drake Britton as the lefthanded options out of the bullpen for manager Kevin Boles.
â€śI used to be a reliever so I know how itâ€™s done. Just got to find a routine for the bullpen and what not,â€ť said Verdugo.
Though Verdugo was officially added to Pawtucketâ€™s roster, Boles mentioned that he planned to stay away from the newcomer for Fridayâ€™s game against Buffalo. The skipper mentioned that he was the process of gathering data on Verdugo. If Boles so desired, all he had to do was summon Ranaudo into his office and he would have had a comprehensive scouting report in Verdugo in no time.
Describing Verdugo on the mound, Ranaudo stated, â€śHeâ€™s an aggressive lefty who is going to go after guys with a fastball/changeup combo. Heâ€™s got two breaking balls and is able to mix speeds, throwing the ball around 90-92, somewhere around there.â€ť
Apparently, Verdugo also doubles as a pseudo pitching coach. While he and Ranaudo were tossing the ball around their college stomping grounds during the All-Star break, Verdugo noticed something was awry with his buddyâ€™s changeup.
â€śRyanâ€™s got a real good changeup. He always gives me stuff in the offseason that we talk about as far as being successful with the changeup. I threw a couple of changeups and he told me my wrist was a little limp. He saw it pretty quickly coming out of my glove so he told me to stiffen up my wrist a little earlier,â€ť Ranaudo pointed out. â€śI wound up commanding the ball while playing catch, but I really didnâ€™t think anything of it. I threw a side (Thursday) and it went really well. I had a lot of good action with it. We were joking around that he fixed it and gave me a better changeup.â€ť
Verdugo downplayed his suggestion to Ranaudo, saying, â€śThe groundwork was there. I just gave him a little tip and hopefully that kind of helps out and takes off for him there.â€ť
Ranaudo wasnâ€™t the only PawSox player Verdugo knew upon setting foot in the home clubhouse at McCoy Stadium. Fellow pitchers Brandon Workman and Drake Britton have been known to drop by Baton Rouge during the winter months.
â€śIt makes it a little easier to adjust if you know a few guys,â€ť said Verdugo. â€śYou can ask them how things work around this team because every team is a little bit different. It makes the adjustment a little bit easier.â€ť
An article on minorleagueball.com noted that Verdugo tends to be superstitious with his meals, particularly on days when he knows his starting. He admitted that he switched from Chipolte to Cracker Barrel.
â€śI guess itâ€™s a superstition, some people say, but itâ€™s more of a routine. I just like to get in a routine. It makes you comfortable,â€ť Verdugo said.
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