BOSTON — Shane Victorino’s return strengthens the Red Sox in several ways.
Victorino, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list Thursday, should greatly improve the Red Sox’s outfield defense, provide offensive consistency and add a little extra energy to a team that has endured some struggles while opening its World Series defense. In essence, the 33-year-old will help give the Red Sox stability they’ve lacked in his absence.
“This is something we’ve been waiting for for some time here, and Shane’s return, we feel like, will help solidify our outfield defense, and, in addition to that, the top of the order for us,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Thursday. “It’s good to have him back in the lineup. There’s no doubt about it.”
Victorino made his season debut Thursday after spending the Red Sox’s first 22 games on the disabled list because of a hamstring strain he suffered in Boston’s final spring training contest. Farrell said there are no specific limitations being placed on Victorino, and the Red Sox simply will monitor his status and availability on a game-by-game basis, as they do with every player.
While it’s unclear how heavy Victorino’s workload will be out of the chute, he’ll certainly impact the way the Red Sox operate, especially defensively. Victorino and Jackie Bradley Jr. will cover a lot of ground in Boston’s outfield.
“I think we saw last year with Shane in right field — a Gold Glove winner — particularly in this ballpark what it means,” Farrell said. “That’s not to be critical of anybody who’s played right field to date. That said, he’s got an opportunity to solidify our defense in the outfield.”
Grady Sizemore and Jonny Gomes essentially will platoon in left field — Sizemore versus right-handers and Gomes versus left-handers — with Victorino back in the mix. And although Farrell didn’t rule out featuring other outfield combinations from time to time, there inherently will be fewer moving parts with Victorino around, which should enable everyone to settle in.
The Red Sox opted to feature a lineup Thursday that consisted of Dustin Pedroia in the leadoff spot and Victorino in the No. 2 hole. The Red Sox likely will ride that lineup combination for a little bit, as Pedroia and Victorino both are proven catalysts.
“Hopefully with Pedey and Vic at the top of the order, the on-base will be there at a consistent rate,” Farrell said.
There’s a lot to like about Victorino’s game, especially as it pertains to the Red Sox’s brand of baseball. But the veteran outfielder also makes a certain unquantifiable impact through his grit and enthusiasm, and it’s possible Boston could benefit from the emotional boost.
“I think we missed, like I said, not only the on-field (performance), but the energy that he brings that’s felt in the dugout and that’s felt in the clubhouse,” Farrell said Thursday. “He came in and it was almost like Christmas morning this morning knowing that he was going to be active in the lineup. He’s a welcome sight back for us.”
Even if Victorino wasn’t the missing link, it’s nearly impossible to dispute he makes the Red Sox’s chain so much stronger.