Shane Victorino’s back issue might not require a disabled list stint, but the Red Sox should continue to take a cautious approach with the veteran outfielder. They can afford to play it safe.
Victorino will once again be out of action on Friday. He tweaked his back during Saturday’s game against the Royals, and the injury caused him to miss the next two games. Victorino then returned to play in the following three contests, but he was removed from Wednesday’s game when he tweaked his back again, and he didn’t play Thursday night.
Manager John Farrell said before Friday’s game that a DL stint isn’t on the table yet, and perhaps it won’t be. It’s looking like Victorino could be out until at least Tuesday, though, which means some additional playing time for Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp is likely forthcoming.
The Red Sox will miss having Victorino in the lineup, and the hope is that he’ll quickly get over his lingering ailment. But since we’re talking about a 32-year-old who goes full-throttle every play and whose speed is an asset, there’s no sense risking making matters worse at this point, especially with the lowly Astros in town and other viable outfield options waiting in the wings.
Victorino has proven to be a very nice pickup for Boston. He has gone just 3-for-18 over his last five starts, but his season average sits at .292, and he has come through in some big spots. Victorino is second in the American League with a .563 average (9-for-16) with runners in scoring position, and his .361 road average is good for 10th in the AL.
With Jacoby Ellsbury leading off and Victorino in the No. 2 hole, life has been very difficult for opposing pitchers when facing the top of the Red Sox’ order. Ellsbury leads the majors with 10 stolen bases, and the Red Sox can really get creative and aggressive with the speedster because of Victorino’s ability to handle the bat. Victorino also has plenty of speed himself, which is a major reason why he has yet to hit into a double play this season.
Where the Red Sox will miss Victorino the most is in the outfield. The Flyin’ Hawaiian won three Gold Gloves from 2008 to 2010 while playing center field, and his transition to right field has gone very smoothly. Victorino has demonstrated plenty of range and a quality arm that’s responsible for him racking up three outfield assists this season (third in the AL).
The Red Sox will continue to go with some combination of Gomes, Carp and Daniel Nava in Victorino’s absence. Gomes is really the only one of that bunch to endure struggles, and more playing time could help him right the ship. Nava leads the club with a .310 average and a .425 on-base percentage, and Carp has made the most of his limited opportunities by hitting .500 (8-for-16). Boston should be able to weather the storm from an offensive standpoint.
Any missed time for Victorino is less than ideal, but the Red Sox need to handle the situation with a long-term outlook. It’s difficult to replace Victorino for a few games, but it would be even more difficult to replace him for an extended period of time.
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