FORT MYERS, Fla. — Shane Victorino is the Boston Red Sox’s starting right fielder. That hasn’t changed. But the Red Sox want to make sure they’re prepared for whatever the 2014 season might throw their way.
Victorino will play center field at some point during spring training, manager John Farrell said at JetBlue Park on Tuesday. The goal is to prepare Victorino for the possibility of shifting over in small doses, although Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. currently are battling for the starting center field spot.
“Depending on how our roster looks at the end of spring training, at some point in camp, we will get Shane in center field,” Farrell said. “The approach we take is we don’t know what the roster is going to be, so we have to cover all our bases in terms of what potential alignments might look like. If there’s a situation where, let’s say, we have to pinch hit for Jackie at some point and Grady’s not on this team — one scenario — then Shane’s got to have at least some reps in spring training to feel comfortable to go to center field for a two- to three-inning stint.”
Victorino has plenty of experience in center field, his former full-time position. The 33-year-old has patrolled center field in 763 regular-season games — including 12 games in 2013 — over his 10-year career, winning Gold Gloves at the position with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008 and 2010. The Red Sox, obviously, prefer to keep Victorino in right field, where he thrived last season while earning another Gold Glove, as much as possible in 2014, but additional flexibility is a plus.
“Shane’s a Gold Glove right fielder. The best defensive alignment kind of jumps off the page at you, and that’s got Shane in right,” Farrell said. “I’m not going to say there’s absolutes, because if we’re going up against a tough left-handed starter, it might be (Jonny) Gomes, Victorino and (Daniel) Nava across the outfield. The fact that we have versatile players really helps in that way.”
This offseason, Victorino said he was willing to play center field if the need arose.