The Flyin’ Hawaiian never got off the tarmac this season.
Boston Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino was limited to 30 games in 2014 because of various injuries, including a back issue that required season-ending surgery. The tumultuous campaign — coupled with other factors — seemingly has relegated Victorino to fourth outfielder status, creating an unfamiliar situation that ultimately could test the 33-year-old’s willingness to buy into a team-first concept.
To his credit, Victorino always has put the team above all else, including his body. Even during Victorino’s impressive 2013 season, he was limited to 122 regular-season games and missed two games in the World Series because of injuries he sustained laying it all on the line. A hard-nosed style is Victorino’s calling card. One can’t realistically expect a player to tone it down, especially at this point in his career. Red Sox manager John Farrell would agree.
“If there’s thought in there on playing more under control, does that thought put a guy in a position physically for potential injury?” Farrell asked in September while discussing Dustin Pedroia’s season-ending thumb/wrist surgery. “That’s debatable.”
Like Pedroia, Victorino is an instinctual player wired to go full-throttle. It’s why he’s had a successful career, it’s why teammates hold him in high regard and it’s why he still can be a valuable contributor if/when his best days are behind him. It’s also why it’s hard to envision Victorino accepting a bench role without at least some pushback.
This isn’t to say Victorino is going to throw a hissy fit if he enters next season as a role player rather than the starting right fielder. The 11-year veteran is fully aware of the Red Sox’s crowded outfield situation and the reality that his 2015 role at this point is undefined. But Victorino — again, much like Pedroia — is the type of player who takes pride in the day-to-day grind. He craves it. One would imagine he’ll fight for his job.
So, what does this mean for the Red Sox?
Well, it’s a good problem to have. While the Red Sox certainly should have concerns about Victorino’s ability to stay healthy based on 2014, they also can operate under the presumption he’ll push the club’s other outfielders to perform better if he sticks with Boston as a fourth option.
Of course, there’s a very good chance the Red Sox will deal from their outfield surplus, either leading to Victorino’s departure or paving the way for him to regain his stranglehold on right field. The former scenario likely would require the Red Sox to eat a portion of Victorino’s $13 million salary. It’s also undesirable because Victorino’s value is low as a result of 2014 — minimizing the potential return — and the Red Sox, who are coming off a last-place finish, need as many good players as they can get.
It’s easy to forget just how good Victorino was with Boston before an injury-plagued 2014. He was a defensive star in a very difficult right field at Fenway Park. Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo and Mookie Betts — three players who weren’t on Boston’s 2014 Opening Day roster — look like starting outfield material going into 2015, but Victorino’s return could be a difference-maker.
The problem — though I wouldn’t advise calling it such — is figuring out where Victorino fits into the plans.
Photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images
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