Red Sox notes: As Shane Victorino nears return, Grady Sizemore's roster spot in jeopardy

June 16, 2014 - 3:14 pm
Shane Victorino is appearing in the second game of his Triple-A rehab assignment on Monday night in Rochester. The Sox anticipate that he will be ready to rejoin the club during the West Coast trip through Oakland and Seattle, though given the early stage of Victorino's rehab assignment in Pawtucket (he's played one game, going 0-for-2), a specific date hasn't been established. Both Victorino and Will Middlebrooks are expected to play back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday for the PawSox, sit Wednesday, then play three straight days, at which point they'll be re-evaluated. When Victorino does return, the Sox will face a crowd in their outfield. The team has Jackie Bradley Jr. as its everyday center fielder, with Victorino expected to be the primary right fielder. Brock Holt has carved out a flexible everyday role with Victorino sidelined, and he's become a critical contributor as the leadoff man who has shown the ability to play third, second, short, first, left and right -- with Farrell saying he'd be open to having Holt play center as well. Daniel Nava has started to heat up; Farrell would like to see the effective left field platoon of Nava and Jonny Gomes return to its 2013 levels of production. Grady Sizemore (batting .216 with a .288 OBP and .324 slugging mark) has seen his playing time dwindle, and he would appear in danger of getting further squeezed -- perhaps out of a roster spot -- when Victorino returns. "With [Victorino's] progression taking place, provided there are no setbacks, there's going to be the need for a roster decision upon his return," said Farrell. "Brock's emergence in the outfield has definitely taken away from Grady and the at-bats there, particularly with the way Daniel Nava has come on of late. Grady has lost some at-bats. We've sat and we've talked about it. He recognizes the guys he's in competition with here. He's a little bit of a victim of the performance of other guys." When Victorino returned from his season-opening stint on the DL in April, Nava was the victim of the numbers game (and the fact that he had minor league options), getting sent down at a time when he was hitting .149/.240/.269. But in his last eight games, the switch-hitter has a .417/.517/.500 line in 29 plate appearances, and so the Sox seem unlikely to remove Nava from the lineup. "That's not just with what he's done of late. We also don't forget what he did last year, and that combination between he and Jonny was an extremely productive one," said Farrell. "We need that production to return for us to sustain success." Yet the team also wants badly to keep Holt in the lineup given the offensive spark he's delivered. While it would appear that Nava and Gomes seem likely to get regular playing time in left, Bradley will be the primary center fielder and Victorino will be the primary right fielder, Farrell said that the Sox are willing to find opportunities for the 26-year-old. "Brock's consistent offense is what drives all of this. It's allowed us to be a little bit more aggressive with his defensive alignment because we really want to keep the bat in there every day. To the extent of the defensive versatility and the leadoff spot, that kind of offensive player that he's shown right now, no, this is the first [time that Farrell has encountered such a performance as a manager. "The beauty of this has been two-fold. There hasn't been a hangup mentally by going to a new position and all of a sudden being less aggressive on the defensive side. He has still maintained that. And two, we haven't seen any ill effects from his approach at the plate. I think it speaks to, one, his willingness and two, his overall intelligence and who he is as a player. He's gone out and performed very well." Farrell noted that Victorino's playing time will have to be managed upon his return given that he was sidelined by a hamstring injury that recurred, further opening playing time for a potential combination of Victorino, Holt, Bradley, Nava and Gomes, with Sizemore seemingly in limbo and Mike Carp's role uncertain when he gets healthy. Still, it's premature to say what will happen by the time Victorino is ready to return. Given the volatile nature of the team's outfield performance -- and the potential for injury -- the Sox don't feel compelled to say what will happen when Victorino is ready. "Some pretty general thoughts and different combinations," Farrell said of the team's ideas about who will play the outfield when Victorino comes back. "We're tentatively going through this to make sure that Shane gets back to us first and foremost. We'll adjust accordingly." OTHER RED SOX NOTES -- As of the start of Monday's game, the Sox had yet to hear about Brandon Workman's appeal of his six-game suspension. -- Farrell said that while Xander Bogaerts has played solely at third base since Stephen Drew joined the big league club -- including the games when Drew was unavailable -- he remains open to the idea of having Bogaerts play short later in the season, with Middlebrooks at third. "It's a possibility [that Bogaerts would play shortstop], yes. And that would mean a right-handed hitting left-side infielder. Could that be Will Middlebrooks? Absolutely it could be," said Farrell. "So in certain alignments against a left-handed pitcher, we could have a Middlebrooks-Bogaerts left side of the infield."