Boston Red Sox OF Alex Verdugo back in lineup after benching

BOSTON -- Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo returned to the starting lineup for Sunday's game against Toronto, a day after he was benched by manager Alex Cora.

"Hopefully we learned as a group from what happened yesterday and that's the reason that we did it," Cora said before the Red Sox lost the series finale to the Blue Jays, 13-1. "It was my decision not to play him and I have my reasons and we'll leave it at that."

On Sunday, Verdugo went 3 for 4 with three singles and made a nice running catch on Matt Chapman's fly ball near the Pesky Pole in the fourth inning.

On Saturday, the Red Sox scratched Verdugo about two hours before their 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays. No reason was given during the game. He was replaced in the lineup by Adam Duvall.

Following the game, Cora said: "We took a step back as a team. We have to make sure everybody's available every single day here for us to get to wherever we're going to go. And that wasn't the case. ... I've got to take charge of this and decided he wasn't going to play."

When Verdugo spoke to the media, he said it was a "manager's decision. We're going to leave it at that."

Earlier this season, Cora benched Verdugo for not hustling and after last season the manager challenged him to be better prepared.

Cora addressed those things Sunday morning.

"I think I said it last year: 'It's where you want to go as a player,''' Cora said. "It's who you are and where you want to be. This kid, he's very talented.

"We're here to help him and support him. We see flashes of greatness and we see flashes of struggles. ... Everybody's different in that clubhouse and you have to deal with them in different ways."

Cora further explained that he hopes the discipline helps motivate the 27-year-old outfielder.

"He's a smart kid. He has his ups and downs like everybody else," Cora said. "Sometimes you've got to show him some tough love and sometimes you've got to be there for him in another way. That's what I'm trying to do."

Verdugo was acquired in the February 2020 trade that sent Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is hitting .270 with eight homers and 41 RBIs in 98 games this season.