Victorino adapting to part-time role
'Of course it's tough, but it's all about winning,' Angels outfielder says
ANAHEIM -- Shane Victorino never truly realized how prominently the platoon advantage factors into today's game, until he gave up switch-hitting and began to experience it for himself.
Victorino stopped batting left-handed in August 2013 to alleviate soreness from previous leg and side injuries. He entered the 2015 season hopeful of becoming a switch-hitter once again, but abandoned that plan around the middle of March, believing that hitting only right-handed would ease his return from back surgery.
Now Victorino's starts come only against left-handed pitchers.
Since being acquired from the Red Sox on July 27, the two-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner has started only 14 of the Angels' 38 games. He even sat Saturday, against Rangers lefty Derek Holland, because Angels manager Mike Scioscia preferred the matchup with fellow right-handed hitter Collin Cowgill.
"Of course it's tough," Victorino said of not playing every day, "but it's all about winning."
Victorino basically played every day until a litany of injuries -- to his ribcage, back, left knee and right hamstring -- limited him to 30 games with Boston in 2014. When the 34-year-old returned from a left calf strain in early July this season, the plan was to initially only start him against lefties and ease him back into an everyday role. But the left-handed-hitting Alejandro De Aza was playing well, so Victorino was given the label he admittedly hates: platoon player.
"I just think sometimes things happen in this game that you don't see happening as fast as it did," said Victorino, a free agent at season's end who plans to retrain himself to switch-hit over the winter.
"Now that I've had all these things physically change and I'm starting to feel better, yes, that is something that I want to go back to," he added. "It's like another challenge. You physically couldn't do it; now your body feels physically good again, so go back and do it."
Victorino grew frustrated with his part-time role, but he got some sage advice from A's hitting coach Chili Davis, then from Angels hitting coach Don Baylor, about how to handle it all.
"Hearing it from those guys, who later in their careers had it happen to them -- it's about being a true pro, understanding, being a part of the team," Victorino said. "In the big picture, you want to win."
Victorino still envisions himself as an everyday player. "Of course," he said, "my goal is to be an everyday player now" -- but he'll accept his current role through the end of this season. Overall, he's surprised by how many platoons he's noticed.
"I was brought up in the game where you run the dogs, and you run them to race," Victorino said. "It's amazing how much more platoons are being incorporated in the game."
Actually, though, it hasn't really changed much. Since 2000, the Major League average for platoon advantages has stayed relatively steady.
For Victorino, it just seems like more.