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Shane Victorino: ‘I should be the starting right fielder’

11.27.14 at 11:12 pm ET
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Shane Victorino is optimistic he will hit the ground running when spring training rolls around. (Getty Images)

Shane Victorino is optimistic he will hit the ground running when spring training rolls around. (Getty Images)

Through all the uncertainty that has encompassed the Red Sox‘ offseason, Shane Victorino has taken solace in his own run of certainty.

Monday, for the first time since undergoing back surgery, the outfielder will swing a bat. It is the latest step forward in a rehabilitation process that has left Victorino as confident as ever heading into his third season with the Red Sox.

“Everything feels great,” Victorino said from Hawaii, where he had been over the last week or so to help run his charity event for the Shane Victorino Foundation (helping children in need). “There hasn’t been any setbacks. I was cleared to start swinging a few weeks ago but I was coming to Hawaii so they didn’t want me to do any swinging or rotating until I got back [to his home in Las Vegas]. Once I get back Monday I’ll probably start therapeutic swinging just to get the motion of what’s going on. It’s going in the right direction. I’m moving, running, lifting with no setbacks. Here and there, there are your normal fatigue of muscle areas, but beyond that there hasn’t been anything to have me slow it down.

“From what I know we’re all systems go if everything go as planned. As of now, all systems are go. We have no intentions of taking it slow going into spring training. That might be a mindset that changes, but as of right we’re focused on being ready for the first day of spring training and doing everything from the start to when things pick up.”

So with his health trending in the right direction, the next question involving Victorino involves his role in an unbelievably crowded outfield.

There’s Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Yoenis Cespedes, Hanley Ramirez, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley, and Brock Holt. Yet, as far as Victorino is concerned, there should be one constant that provides some outfield certainty heading into 2015 — the soon-to-be 34-year-old playing right field at Fenway Park.

“If you think there’s somebody better in right, be my guest,” he said. “Obviously health will dictate that. But if I’m healthy if there’s a better outfielder in right field then show me and go out there and do it. I’m not saying that in a cocky or arrogant way. It’s just how confident I am to know I should be the starting right fielder. There are things to come into play and situations to be discussed. I plan on being healthy and out there and ready to go. Like I said, it’s my job. I don’t think there’s anybody can tell me differently. If they feel there is from an organization’s standpoint it is what it is. As I’ve said, whatever uniform it may be I’m going to go out there and give 100 percent and be the best I can be. Obviously I want it to be a Red Sox uniform and be a right fielder, but I can’t control decisions that are made from up top.”

Victorino — who is on the final season of a three-year, $39 million deal — then added regarding the perceived outfield competition, “It’s part of the business. Yeah, some of the things that are discussed in terms of contracts and length of contracts, as a player or as a fan who follows what’s going on you sit there and say less than a year ago they weren’t going to do these kind of things. Teams do change. But as I said, that’s their decision. That’s a business decision. It’s not our decision to worry and ponder about. As a baseball player I’m focused on being healthy and be ready to go. I’m not worried about what guys are getting and what contracts are signed. You worry about those kind of things then that takes another element away from your focus of being the best player you can be.”

It’s not a stretch to identify Victorino as the team’s best all-around outfielder when healthy. In 2013, he provided Gold Glove defense while finishing with 15 home runs, 21 stolen bases, a .294 batting average and an .801 OPS in 122 games.

Last season, however, back and hamstring issues limited Victorino to just 30 games, leading to the season-ending operation. It was a nightmare that began on the third day of spring training and has left the former switch-hitter (now hitting exclusively righty) having to stake claim to his former lot in life once again.

Yet, as far as the outfielder is concerned, if all things go as planned health-wise the days leading into the ’15 season shouldn’t be approached any differently than those heading into his team’s world championship-winning campaign two years before.

“I never try to impress anybody. I’m not out there to impress anybody,” he said. “Do I want to get myself as close to game motion and process? Yes, that’s what spring training. But I always say it’s not about the results of spring training and what happens there. It’s about being ready for April 5, to be ready for that first game in Philly. That’s what I’m focused on. I plan on being ready to go on Day 1 in spring training and be as healthy and at 100 percent as best I can.”

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