Alex Verdugo's key defensive play helped Yankees forget about 2023 outfield disaster

New York Yankees v Houston Astros
New York Yankees v Houston Astros / New York Yankees/GettyImages

Though the New York Yankees still have many problems that need to be sorted out, the victory on Opening Day on the road against the Astros definitely helped fans briefly turn the page onto bigger and better things.

Juan Soto stole all the headlines because of his historic debut that featured an RBI single to get the offensive rally going as well as the game-saving defensive play that saw him throw out the tying run at home plate in the ninth.

But don't you forget about Alex Verdugo! Acquired in an offseason trade with the Red Sox, the former enemy made a statement in his Yankees debut, too.

Verdugo went 1-for-3 with a sac fly, which drove in the game-winning run Thursday. He also didn't strike out once, which is something the rest of the lineup couldn't say.

Perhaps most importantly, though, Verdugo was a breath of fresh air on the defensive side of the ball after fans watched the Yankees put infielders in the outfield for all of 2023. No more Jake Bauers. No more Isiah Kiner-Falefa. No more Oswaldo Cabrera. Billy McKinney was a true outfielder, but no more of him, either. And that's just fine, because we're not sure if we saw a play like this at all last season.

Alex Verdugo's key defensive play helped Yankees forget about 2023 outfield disaster

It wasn't a web gem, but it saved a run and showed great instincts. What if IKF was out there? Aaron Hicks?! That's a gapper. That's another run. That's a tie game. And the Yankees probably lose.

Though the Yankees' outfield plan last year was a disaster because of Hicks' horrific play and eventual release, it still shouldn't have been that hard to find someone capable of playing defense. But they spent so much of the year without Harrison Bader and Aaron Judge that they were left exposed.

They shouldn't have had to go out and trade for both Verdugo and Soto to field a respectable outfield. But they did. And they're way better off for it. The early returns are no fluke, either. Verdugo had a career defensive year in 2023 in Boston, and Soto is now back in right field where he's most comfortable. It's no surprise the two made sterling plays to save Thursday's game.

The only difference is that right field is usually occupied by Judge, so fans rarely fret when a ball is hit out there. Left field has been an entirely different story ever since Brett Gardner's departure. From Hicks to Joey Gallo to Miguel Andújar to Andrew Benintendi to everyone else we mentioned, it was a nightmare.

Sometimes, it's the little things, and Verdugo tracking down a rocket gapper had Yankees fans clapping proudly and appreciating the effort.