Red Sox Manager John Farrell Names Shane Victorino Starting Right Fielder “If Healthy”

While speaking to members of the media at Spring Training Today, John Farrell firmly backed Shane Victorino as the team’s starting right fielder, if he is healthy:

If Shane Victorino is fully capable and fully healthy, he’s our right fielder. I mean that’s pretty simple.

There were many questions going into Spring Training as to whether or not Victorino would be healthy by the start of the 2015 season. Victorino was bothered by a number of injuries last year that limited him to just 30 games. The most serious of these was a back injury that required season ending surgery in August.

The 34 year-old Victorino is entering the final year of a three year, $39 million pact he agreed to with the Red Sox prior to the 2013 season. He will have to prove his health in Spring Training, but as of now indications are that he is healthy.

The other side of this question, is what a healthy Victorino will mean for the emerging Mookie Betts. Ironically, it was Victorino’s season ending back surgery that opened the door for Mookie Betts to prove his mettle as a viable alternative in right field.

Entering the winter most members of the media were projecting Betts to be the team’s right fielder come opening day. Obviously questions of Victorino’s health played into this but Betts’ cup of tea in August was equally convincing that he could hold his own.

In 52 games with Boston, the 21 year-old call-up hit .291/.368/.444. His five home runs and seven stolen bases in that limited span offer a glimpse of a 20-20 player across a full season. John Farrell even said in December that Betts was the strongest candidate to be the team’s leadoff hitter.

But a healthy Victorino complicates things for Betts. The Flyin’ Hawaiian was arguably the team’s best position player in the 2013 regular season, and received MVP votes for his performance. It will be interesting to see what the team will do with Betts if Victorino does prove healthy.

  • Victorino is a two time World Series Champion, two time All Star, and four time Gold Glover the most recent of which came in 2013. He also stole 21 bases that same season. Betts is a player eerily similar to Victorino, but without the health and aging concerns. That said, he also doesn’t have the resume Victorino does and has shown a lot more potential than production.
  • If new center fielder Rusney Castillo struggles, the team may consider having him split time with Betts, or even return to Triple-A to refine his mechanics. Another scenario that could open up playing time for Betts is if former top prospect Xander Bogaerts struggles out of the gate. The team could give Hanley Ramirez time at shortstop and use Betts in left field.
  • Pete Abraham of the Globe points out that had Victorino not given up switch hitting towards the end of the 2013 season, he may have offered more value to this year’s team. As it stands now, Pablo Sandoval and David Ortiz appear to be the team’s only every day left handed hitters, with Daniel Nava coming off the bench.
  • On a side note, Farrell also said at his media event that he was “confident” in his rotation despite the lack of an ace. He praised the group for being deep. It is easy to see this team’s offense succeeding, it will be an interesting story to follow whether or not the rotation can succeed without a clear cut top of the rotation starter.

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