Red Sox notebook: Boston comes closer to more stable lineup as Shane Victorino makes return

April 24, 2014 - 2:36 pm
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As the Red Sox head into the rubber match of their series against the Yankees the team will take a step toward solidifying its lineup. In 23 games this season, including Thursday night's contest, the Red Sox have had 21 different lineups as they dealt with injuries and an ongoing search for a player to take hold of the leadoff spot. With the team finishing out the series against New York and getting on a plane to Toronto, though, some of its stability is returning. Shane Victorino will return to the lineup Thursday night, making his regular-season debut after he suffered an injury to his right hamstring toward the end of spring training. "This is something we'€™ve been waiting for for some time here," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Shane'€™s return we feel like will help solidify our outfield defense particularly, and, in addition to that, the top of the order for us. It'€™s good to have him back in the lineup, there'€™s no doubt about it." Victorino, who will hit second in Thursday'€™s order, went 1-for-11 during a three-game rehab stint with Triple-A Pawtucket. The Red Sox have spent the first month of the season without Victorino and the past three weeks without Will Middlebrooks. "You deal with what you have in the moment and knowing that players are going to come back to you, that'€™s always a positive outlook," Farrell said. "We don'€™t make excuses because guys have been injured or there'€™s been some performance that'€™s been a little less than. We'€™re setting out to compete and win every single night and sometimes that hasn'€™t always been the case." Farrell added that with Victorino back in the lineup, he hopes to keep Dustin Pedroia in the leadoff spot with Victorino hitting second. "Hopefully with [Pedroia] and [Victorino] at the top of the order the on-base will be there at a higher, and at a more consistent rate," Farrell said. "I think stability is what this team is in need of right now." OTHER RED SOX NOTES -- Middlebrooks has likely finished his own rehab assignment and will probably fly out to Toronto to join the team for its three-game series with the Blue Jays. Middlebrooks, who was placed on the disabled list after suffering a Grade 1 calf strain on April 5, joined Pawtucket on April 21. While the 25-year-old was hitless in 10 at-bats over three games with the PawSox, Farrell said Thursday that Middlebrooks€™ was swinging the bat better in his final appearance. -- Since joining the Red Sox on April 18, Brock Holt has accumulated a .400 average with a .458 on-base percentage while driving in four runs over the course of six games. The team called Holt up to the majors after Ryan Roberts struggled to fill the gap left by Middlebrooks'€™ calf injury. "When he came to us, we hoped he would spark the bottom third of the order," Farrell said. "He'€™s done exactly that. He'€™s been fine defensively at third base, he'€™s given us quality at-bats -- even in situations where he'€™s made an out, he'€™s been working the count deep and he'€™s gotten on base at a high rate. "He'€™s given us a jolt in the arm, and we'€™ll see where things go from there." Farrell added that the team is having an on-going discussion of what to do with Holt, who went 1-for-2 with two walks and an RBI during Wednesday's 5-1 win over the Yankees, once Middlebrooks returns. The team will only need one utility player, and so either Holt or Jonathan Herrera would appear to be the odd-man out. Both have options remaining, though Herrera is considered the superior defensive shortstop, and Farrell said that his preference to get the most capable glove at that position remains unchanged. -- Farrell said on Thursday that Jonny Gomes and Grady Sizemore could potentially platoon in left field. Farrell added that Sizemore may also get playing time in center, so his playing time won't necessarily be restricted to days in which right-handed pitchers are on the mound. "With [Victorino's] return there's still going to be some managing of that playing time there," Farrell said. "I can't say he's solely going to be in left field, particularly in Fenway where we might see Grady in center and Jackie [Bradley Jr.] in right on any given day. We've got to remain open to not only who's available to us, but where we're playing -- home or on the road."

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