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December 13, 2012

Cherington's neck on the line if these players don't produce

BOSTON — The moves Ben Cherington already has made and will continue to make this offseason will go a long way in defining his tenure as Red Sox GM for better or worse.

His neck is on the line. Unlike last offseason, he has been given the money to build his own team and now is his time to prove his worth.

In the coming years, Cherington will be judged by the performance of the players who he has hand-selected this offseason.

So how is he doing so far? He has added several players who will infuse strong character to a clubhouse that was in need of a culture change. But most all of his additions come with clear risk, too.

Cherington’s new right fielder, Shane Victorino, was introduced here at Fenway Park yesterday after the two sides agreed on a three-year, $39-million deal. Briefly after, the Red Sox signed starting pitcher Ryan Dempster to a two-year deal reportedly worth $26.5 million. Dempster’s deal is pending a physical.

Victorino is coming off a tough season in which he batted .255 with a .321 on-base percentage. The switch-hitter struggled especially from the left-side, batting .229 compared to .323 from the right side.

Struggling from the left side can be even more arduous at Fenway with a deep right-field fence.

“We looked at that,” Cherington said. “He’s had years where he’s hit righties well. We feel confident based on what we’ve looked at in the video and talking with Shane that he’s going to be a productive hitter from the left side. ... He doesn’t have to hit home runs at Fenway from the left side. He has the kind of power to do that but we’re looking at the overall game: What he can do defensively, on the bases, creating havoc in the lineup, covering ground in right field.”

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