PAWTUCKET – Never once did the thought of becoming the Red Sox’s everyday center fielder cross Shane Victorino’s mind. He was committed to playing right field, meaning someone else was going to have to fill the void created when Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Yankees.
Initially, the plan coming out of spring training was to have Victorino flanked by newcomer Grady Sizemore with Jackie Bradley Jr. holding tight in the minors. Of course, those best-laid plans went awry when Boston placed Victorino on the disabled list prior to the first game of the 2014 season.
Monday represented Bradley’s 12th start in center field at the major-league level. For comparison’s sake, Sizemore has appeared in eight games in center. From Victorino’s injured vantage point, the current center-field arrangement contains far more pluses as opposed to negatives.
“As I told Jackie when he didn’t make the team, you’ve got to continue to work. You can’t things like that bother you because sometimes, it’s a numbers game and things happen for a reason,” said Victorino prior to going 1-for-4 in his second rehab game with the PawSox. “Look at what ended up happening. I get hurt the last day of spring training and Jackie makes the Opening Day roster. He’s done a great job and run with it. I’m very happy for him and hopefully I can continue to motivate him. He has every tool to be an everyday major-league player.”
On Sizemore, Victorino waxed a little bit nostalgic. The two made their big-league debuts a year apart – Victorino in 2003 with San Diego and Sizemore in 2004 with Cleveland.
“I remember looking up at him while I was coming up, saying ‘I want to be like Grady Sizemore in center field.’ To me, he was the best center fielder when he was healthy,” Victorino fondly shared. “To see what he’s doing after a two-year layoff, that’s what is fascinating and intriguing to me. You can see he’s still trying to get himself in baseball shape, but there’s definitely that sign of upside.”
There’s definitely a major-league vibe to the PawSox these days with the presence of Victorino and third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who kicked off his rehab assignment Monday night. With two important parts of Boston’s lineup presently in town, Victorino declared that it’s far too early to push the panic button in reference to the ballclub’s sub-.500 start.
“We definitely don’t want to be where we are, but it’s all part of the game. There’s a reason why we play 162 games for a reason and my big belief has always been that it’s not how you start, but how you finish,” Victorino expressed.
Told that the Red Sox concluded the first month of the 2013 season with an 18-7 mark, Victorino said, “What you do in April dictates what happens in September. You look at our division. We’re 2.5 games out of first place and division games is where you want to do as best as you can and try to gain ground on your opponents.”
While the Red Sox will not be at full strength at the start of this week’s three-game set against the division-leading Yankees, there’s a chance that could change by the time the New Yorkers depart Fenway Park on Thursday night.
“Those guys are hungry. They got better, but we’re up for the challenge,” said Victorino. “Getting everybody healthy and back out there are the most important things.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03