The Red Sox acquired Alex Verdugo from the Dodgers despite murky allegations that he may have played a role in failing to prevent a sexual assault, and on Saturday afternoon, Verdugo addressed those claims in both a declaration of innocence and a plea for Red Sox fans to greet him with an open mind.
Discussing the topic for roughly seven minutes, Verdugo repeatedly noted he was cleared of wrongdoing by police in Arizona after the incident in February 2015, which resulted in no charges being filed, but included both allegations of physical and sexual assault.
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"With that incident, there were a lot of reports, and obviously my name being mentioned in the allegations, it hurts," Verdugo said. "It really does hurt. It's hard. I don't want Boston fans or people to judge me on something they've read or seen posted. I know who I am. I know what I believe in. I know my family values. It's extremely hard to have to deal with that. You obviously have a lot of mixed-up views on it. I was cleared of any wrongdoing. That being said, it's a terrible thing that happened. It was in the past. I've learned from it. I've grown from it."
The Washington Post reported last year about the incident, though it didn't name any of the players involved because no charges were filed. A 17-year-old girl accused one player of posting a video to social media of two other girls beating her. She later alleged that another player -- not Verdugo -- had sexually assaulted during a night of partying at a hotel.
The suggestion was then made that Verdugo had not stopped the second assault, though there's no evidence to support he was even aware it had happened.
"I have regrets obviously what had transpired that night with certain events," he said. "There was an investigation and like I said, I was cleared of anything wrongdoing, and if I was around for anything that happened, I would've put a stop to it. I would've helped out. I would've done something. There's a lot of mixed reports about it. I just felt like this was a good time to get my truth out and how I am. It sucks, but we're going to work through and keep getting better and we're just going to keep going on."
Manager Ron Roenicke said that Verdugo addressed the team about the situation when he arrived, and the 23-year-old outfielder explained why.
"You guys [media] are bringing it up, asking about it and talking about it," he said. "You have to do it. You guys have to do your homework and cover everything. That being said, I wanted to come to a new organization, but I didn't want to be a distraction. I'm here to play baseball. I'm a baseball player. I'm here to help the Boston Red Sox win a championship, to go out there every single day and contribute.
"It's something I had to address to let everyone know the truth of it and hear it from my side, to hear the actual what happened. I think at the end of the day, it doesn't catch any of the players by surprise. It's out there. Everybody knows it, and now you can start that healing, the moving on, let's focus on baseball."
Verdugo hopes fans will give him a chance to show that he has matured and grown. He said he intends to give back to the community and says it's the way he was raised "the right way" alongside five sisters and two brothers in Tucson, Arizona.
"I've stayed active in my community with the Dodgers, and showing face and being very out there with the fans and interacting with people," he said. "I want to give back to my community. I want to show people that I am a good guy and I do care a lot about this game, and I have a big heart, and I want people to judge me obviously for the way I play, what I go out there and bring out to the field, the energy, the hard work, the giving it 100 percent. That's what I want to be known for, not something that happened several years back."
Added Verdugo: "I treat women with the utmost respect, that's why having allegations like this hurts, having my name mentioned in it hurts. It does. It does. It puts emotional stress on you. It takes a lot out of you. With that being said, that's in the past. I'd really like to focus on baseball, focus on my next opportunity here on the Boston Red Sox. I'm looking forward to getting started here and letting my play, letting my passion for the game show people who I really am."