Sports

Yankees manager Aaron Boone has a rule for new outfielder Alex Verdugo: One chain per game

HOUSTON — (AP) — During his time with the Boston Red Sox, Alex Verdugo frequently played with several gaudy chains bouncing around his neck. He packs at least six for every road trip, and he's lost count of how many he owns.

In his first season with the famously clean-cut New York Yankees, Verdugo has been given an order by manager Aaron Boone: only one chain per game.

“It’s kind of been hard, man,” Verdugo said. “Because usually I'm used to wearing like three of four.”

Verdugo looks like a new man with New York, stripped of all but one diamond-studded necklace so far this season and also missing his signature ginger beard. The Yankees have a strict appearance policy put in place by owner George Steinbrenner in 1976 that, among other things, limits hair length and bans facial hair besides mustaches. The policy has been criticized in recent years, including by former players Andrew McCutchen and Cameron Maybin, for limiting the ways players can express themselves.

After being traded from Boston to New York in December, Verdugo is playing ball with the policy. He wore the same necklace for each game in New York's season-opening series against the Houston Astros. The chain is modest by his standards, with square-shaped, diamond-covered pieces that cost him about $15,000.

Before leaving the ballpark following one of those games in Houston, he layered several other chains over the one he’d worn on the field. The largest was a thick and wide diamond-encrusted Cuban link with a huge No. 24 pendant, also covered in diamonds, hanging off it.

This one, he says, he’d never wear with the pendant in a game for fear of “knocking myself in the face.”

“So, I wear this big one just like outside, getting to the field for more style and then take it off because it’s way too big,” he said.

He does plan to wear the chain without the pendant as his one-game chain at some point this season.

The No. 24 pendant is new for this season, replacing the No. 99 that adorned the chain last season when he played for Boston. Now that 99 is no longer his number because it’s worn by Yankees captain Aaron Judge, he’s trying to figure out what to do with the old pendant.

“Judgey wants my 99. I said we’ll see about it, got to see how this year goes,” Verdugo said with a laugh.

Hearing Verdugo’s comment, Judge turned around with a big smile and said: “I’ve got to earn it.”

Verdugo says he can’t keep up with how many chains he has because he’s always “re-upping” every time he visits Happy Jewelers, which is in California near Angel Stadium. Arizona’s Joc Pederson introduced him to the jeweler when the two played together for the Dodgers.

Though Verdugo loves his Cuban link with the number pendant, it’s not No. 1 on his list. That honor belongs to a chain that has a very special meaning related to his mother, Shelly.

“My favorite chain is actually a custom one that I got built for my mom who was going through breast cancer,” he said. “I did breast cancer ribbons with hearts connecting all of them. So that’s actually my favorite chain. But I don’t wear it a lot because I don’t want to break it.”

Verdugo said last year was very difficult for him because he lost a grandmother to breast cancer just before his mother was diagnosed with it.

“So, I kind of went through the works a little bit last year,” he said. “I was all over. My mom’s like one of the strongest women ever. So, she helped me out through a lot."

His mother is doing much better now, and Verdugo has promised her a special present.

“She’s cancer free, but she’s still doing treatment for it,” he said. “But I told her when she finishes everything, that chain is hers.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB

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