Victorino ready to reclaim right field with Red Sox
Outfielder, who missed most of 2014 season due to injuries, focused on getting healthy
BOSTON -- You've heard all about the logjam the Red Sox face in the outfield heading into 2015. With Yoenis Cespedes, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rusney Castillo, Daniel Nava and Allen Craig, how does everyone fit?
And then there is the forgotten man -- the one who has probably accomplished the most of the entire group. Don't worry about hurting Shane Victorino's feelings, though. If you somehow erased Victorino from your memory bank after injuries wiped away the majority of his 2014 season, that just adds more fire for him.
These are the type of scenarios Victorino loves.
"Let them talk about the future," Victorino said as he packed up his locker at the end of the season. "That's fine with me. I love it when nobody talks about me. That's when you 'bite them in the butt.' For me, I'm focused on getting healthy. I'm focused on being prepared."
After undergoing back surgery in August, Victorino feels a little better with each passing week. And when Spring Training starts, he can't wait to remind everyone who will start in right field for Boston in 2015.
"Hey, do I want to be the right fielder here? Yeah," said Victorino. "I'm still the right fielder here. Numbers come into play. I've been around this game long enough. I understand it's a business. But nowhere in my mind do I think that's not my job. I'm preparing for that. Whatever happens, happens. I'm preparing to be the right fielder here in Fenway, and go out there and be the best player I can be next year and be as healthy as I can be and go out there and have fun doing it."
Two offseasons ago, Victorino had the same type of edge. After a down year split between the Phillies and Dodgers in 2012, many wondered what the Red Sox were thinking signing Victorino for three years at $39 million.
In 2013, Victorino was a cornerstone for a World Series championship team in every way, being as involved in the action as he was for the Phillies in the glory years of 2008-09.
A healthy Victorino has always been a winning player. So if Victorino indeed does regain his health, he advises you not to bet against him.
"I can promise you right now that I'm not going to Spring Training competing for a job," said Victorino. "There's no reason for me to compete for a job in regards to that. I'm not saying it with any disrespect. If I'm healthy, it's my job. I don't think there's any other way to look at it."
Victorino turns 34 on Nov. 30, but he still has the same enthusiasm and fire as he did a decade ago, when he was trying to establish himself as a Major Leaguer.
"At the end of the day, competition is good. I love competition. I love when somebody's got to push the next person," Victorino said. "I always feel like if you don't get pushed, you're going to be complacent."
Victorino then thought back to what he said about not competing for a job, and he wanted to clarify what he meant by it, so people don't get the wrong idea.
"When I say I don't have to compete for a job, I feel like I've never lost a job," said Victorino. "Injuries happen. I'm going to come back as healthy as I can be and go out there and be ready to go. That's the part where I look at it that I'm not competing for a job.
"On the other hand, hey, if they think there's somebody else that's better in right, I'll be ready to go on Day 1 of Spring Training, and then they can prove me differently. I say that with no disrespect to anybody -- whether it is myself, the organization or whoever the player is. That's just the confidence that I have in myself that I'm going to be back as healthy as I can be and return to form as being as good a player as I can be."
As for the back?
"I feel good," Victorino said. "The progression has been great. There's a plan; there's a map we're going to follow, and we're going to stick to it as close as we can and yet not go too far in one direction or too far in the other. It's that happy medium of trying to make sure, come Day 1 of Spring Training next year, I'm ready to go, I'm healthy and I'm ready to do what I love, more importantly."
When it comes to down times as a baseball player, 2014 holds an infamous place in Victorino's career.
"Yeah, physically, of course. I've never been away from the game for this long," said Victorino. "But at the end of the day, we all understand that sometimes these things happen. But you just have to prepare yourself and get ready to go."
And Victorino offered one last reminder of where he will be when the bell rings for 2015.
"I'll be ready," Victorino said.