Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino entered yesterday batting .283 and he has played exceptional defense this season. He is enjoying his new club, Boston, with many teammates who, like him, are outgoing. And the Red Sox are in the midst of a heated pennant race.
But there’s one problem: Victorino entered yesterday having missed 34 games so far and has been dealing with a recurring hamstring injury.
He had never missed more than 31 games in any season before this year. And there still are 57 games remaining.
So how does Victorino feel about his season so far?
“I would say it’s more frustrating for me from a physical standpoint,” Victorino told The Eagle-Tribune. “But I don’t dwell on those kinds of things. You try to make the best of the moment and make the best of what’s going on. The most important thing is where the team is at. Individually, yeah, you’d like to go out there and do things and be a part of that.
“But sometimes injuries happen,” Victorino added. “That, I think for me, has been the frustrating part. But the big picture is where we are (as a team).”
Victorino staying healthy and on the field the rest of this season is crucial for three main reasons:
1. The Red Sox have struggled against left-handed pitchers so far and Victorino, a switch hitter, is a career .298 hitter with a .369 on-base percentage, .497 slugging percentage and .866 OPS when batting right-handed against lefty hurlers.
2. Boston struggled offensively this past week, being mowed down by Tampa’s two aces David Price and Matt Moore as well as Baltimore’s Chris Tillman. Jose Iglesias has struggled lately, batting just .208 in his first 72 at-bats in July. Stephen Drew has struggled all year. Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s production is dropping.
Meanwhile, Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava and backup outfielder/first baseman Mike Carp have contributed nicely but Nava already has matched his career high for games played and Carp has never played more than 79 games in a single major league season. The full major league season is grueling and so their production could tail off down the stretch.
With some struggling in the lineup and the uncertainty of Nava and Carp, it is imperative that the veteran Victorino, who was in several playoff races with Philadelphia, stays at the top of the lineup.
3. Boston’s outfield defensive depth isn’t very strong. Jonny Gomes is one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball and Daniel Nava has struggled playing right field at Fenway. And so the Red Sox are downgrading significantly when Victorino isn’t out in right field.
And if Victorino and Jacoby Ellsbury, who cover a tremendous amount of ground together, are out on the same day, which has happened this season, Nava (instead of Victorino) is shifted to center field, a position he hasn’t played much. And so the defense becomes even more vulnerable.
“It’s about the team, it’s not about an individual but yeah, it’s a frustrating year in that aspect,” Victorino said about missing so much time. “But for the most part, when I get out there and I’m healthy and I feel good now, it’s good.”
So how important does Victorino feel he is to this team and to remaining in the lineup consistently?
“I never want to talk about what I mean to a team from an individual standpoint,” he said. “I just want to go out there and what I bring whatever it may be that night, whether it be defensive, whether it be offensive, all these aspects are important.”
VIctorino struggled offensively in 2012. It seemed as though he was losing some bat speed.
But Victorino said the real issue last year was that he felt pressure during his contract year and wanted to produce to re-sign in Philadelphia.
For a native of much quieter Wailuku, Hawaii, Victorino enjoyed the faster-paced Philly. He loved the passion of Philadelphia fans and he didn’t want to leave there. He said the fans of Boston are very similar.
“I’ve always love interacting with fans, getting that kind of energy and feeding off of that,” Victorino said.
Victorino is happy he made the decision to sign with Boston.
“It’s a great city, a beautiful city,” he said. “I obviously live not far from Fenway. My family loves it here. They love to go do the little things in the city, the duck tours and visiting the Boston Library.
“My wife keeps yelling at me and telling me to go (on a duck tour) from a standpoint to learn about the city,” Victorino added. “She always tells me, ‘You’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.’ I’m so busy. I get up, I come to the field. I want to get ready for the game, little things like that.
“But so far, it’s been a great city. Great atmosphere, great bunch of guys — that’s important to me.”
Victorino’s life is much quieter during the offseason.
“It’s about spending time with my family, my friends,” Victorino said about returning to Hawaii. “A lot of times, too, I’m back for my foundation events that I do there, my golf tournaments. So I’m busy with that. I’m focused on that. But it’s about spending time with my family and friends.
“It’s not like I have to go to the beach and go surf (he’s never surfed),” Victorino added. “If it’s a beach day that day, then I’ll go do it. That’s the things that I love.”
Follow Eagle-Tribune baseball reporter Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyOnMLB