Shane Victorino still on target to hit ground running in Fort Myers

Rob Bradford
January 04, 2015 - 5:09 pm
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Back. Hamstring. Thumb. As far as Shane Victorino is concerned, all such worries are in the past. The Red Sox outfielder reports that everything in regard to his offseason training following back surgery has gone according to plan. Victorino wrote in a text Sunday: "So far full go. Picking up swinging this week. Throwing every day, and lifting, etc. So far, so good." There is also some video proof of his progress ... While much focus has been placed on the emergence of rookie outfielders Rusney Castillo and Mookie Betts when trying to project the right field and center field for the Red Sox, it should be noted the importance of a healthy Victorino. On a few occasions -- including earlier this offseason -- Victorino has proclaimed himself the starting right fielder for the Red Sox. And, even with the promise displayed by Castillo and Betts, if the 34-year-old offers his 2013 offensive and defensive production he could easily be classified as the team's best all-around outfielder when healthy. (Remember, Hanley Ramirez still has to show he can catch a fly ball.) During '13, Victorino claimed a Gold Glove while manning Fenway Park's right field. He also finished with a .294 batting average and .801 OPS to go along with 15 homers and 21 stolen bases in 122 regular season games. If Castillo or Betts finished with those sort of numbers, along with the defensive acumen, the Red Sox would be doing handstands. While there would appear to be a major logjam in the outfield right now, with Daniel Nava, Allen Craig and Brock Holt joining Ramirez, Castillo, Betts and Victorino, the likelihood is that it is a group that will be paired down by at least one (the guess here is Craig) before Opening Day. The team's current thinking is that the collection of the four righty hitters (Ramirez, Castillo, Betts, Victorino) can spell each other -- with Nava and Holt matching up potentially in both outfield and infield situations -- enough to keep everyone healthy. There could be a scenario where the Red Sox cruise through spring training without any hiccups, and they feel confident enough in their outfield depth that a trade is made involving Victorino. That, however, would still offer a fair amount of risk considering you would be leaning on two first-time, full-time big leaguers and a newbie outfielder with a history of injury. There is a ways to go before the Opening Day picture clears itself up. But Victorino's progress offers a reminder as to exactly when and why he was missed so much during his absence a season ago.