Hard-nosed Victorino a key piece for Sox again
Outfielder unconcerned with spot in batting order or status as switch-hitter
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Shane Victorino might lead off. He will probably go back to switch-hitting, though he's being coy about it. And, yes, the walk-up song ("Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley) that 35,000 fans sung in chorus at Fenway on a nightly basis will return.
But those things are all just window dressing when it comes to the energetic right fielder, who is entering his second season in Boston.
The key is Victorino's presence in the lineup and in right field, where he gives every ounce of himself for an entire season.
"Winning player" is probably the best way to describe Victorino.
Victorino's Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and came just two wins shy of repeating the following year. He hopes this year he can taste the repeat.
"You know, there's one thing that you shoot for, and every year the goal is to be in the World Series," Victorino said. "Or to be in a Super Bowl, to be in the NBA Finals, whatever sport it may be. But if you think that way, it's good. I want kids to think that way.
"That's the only way that you know, and that means you want to work hard and you want to get there at the end of every single season. Is it hard to do? Absolutely. I've been blessed with the opportunity to make the postseason six out of seven years in my career, so I think that's a positive. But at the end of the day, my thing to the young kids is just to go out there and have fun and enjoy the ride, work hard, continue to work hard and buy into what we've got here."
If there were those who wondered why the Red Sox invested three years and $39 million into Victorino in December 2012, they got their answers throughout a World Series championship season in '13.
It was Victorino's grand slam that propelled the Red Sox to victory in the clinching Game 6 of the American League Championship Series vs. the Tigers. And it was Victorino's three-run double that was the spark in the ultimate clincher -- Game 6 against the Cardinals.
Did those hits -- which will live on in Red Sox lore -- cross his mind as he roamed the beach in his native Hawaii or spent time at his offseason home in Las Vegas?
"You think about it every day, and that's the kind of stuff that you live for, the opportunities you look forward to when you get that opportunity," Victorino said. "You know, as I said, those are things you kind of look back upon. When it's all said and done, maybe I'll understand the magnitude of that moment. But you know, right now, I'm just living in the moment and enjoying myself and happy to be back in the clubhouse with these guys."
After undergoing surgery to release a nerve in his right thumb, Victorino is getting back up to speed. He might be a little behind schedule in Spring Training, but he has no doubt he'll be in right field on March 31, when the Red Sox open their title defense in Baltimore.
The downtime in the winter was nice, but Victorino is ready to start getting after it again.
"You enjoy your kids, you enjoy your family in the offseason, but you know, you get itchy and antsy as it gets closer to coming here," Victorino said. "I'm excited, I'm happy. Coming in this morning, I was the first one here, but seeing everyone come in now, seeing all of you guys, this is what it's all about. This is what you live for. This is what you work hard for all offseason and you prepare for, is this kind of moment."
Though there has been a lot of speculation that he could be part of the solution to replace Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot, that type of stuff doesn't concern Victorino.
"I never say where I want to be. I don't care where I hit," Victorino said. "I've said that all along. Whatever opportunity presents itself, I'm ready for it, whether it be leadoff, whether it be down in the lineup. I'm not really focused on all that. It's all about getting myself prepared. Wherever I'm put in the batting order, I'll be ready to go."
Thanks in large part for his penchant to banging into walls, Victorino played through a barrage of injuries last season that led to him hitting only right-handed for the stretch run. He was red-hot for most of the time he hit right on right.
Any thought to giving up hitting from the left side?
"I'll let you guys watch and learn," Victorino said.
However, it seems likely Victorino will go back to switch-hitting.
"Everything I know is he will switch-hit," manager John Farrell said. "But I've come to learn that he can change on the fly."
Where is Victorino at in his recovery from thumb surgery?
"I'm 100 percent, full go," quipped Victorino. "No, no, I'm not. I've started doing some activities. I took some dry hacks, I haven't really hit in regards to making contact and stuff like that. It's going to be a work in progress, like I said. I want to make sure I'm ready for Game 1 of 162."