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RED SOX NOTEBOOK

Shane Victorino to take it slow with back injury

Shane Victorino’s hamstring is fine, but now it’s his back, and he doesn’t plan to rush his return. Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

Shane Victorino’s hamstring is fine, but now it’s his back, and he doesn’t plan to rush his return.

It wasn’t that Shane Victorino didn’t notice the clicking in his back while he was warming up for his rehab game two weeks ago with Triple A Pawtucket.

He just felt like it was normal.

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“I thought, ‘OK, my back’s just feeling good and the muscles were relaxing,’ ” Victorino said.

It was a sound he was used to.

“Once in a while I usually get a click in there where you can hear the disk kind of popping,” Victorino said. “It was a little different than the normal, but I was just like, ‘Ah, OK.’ ”

When he reached base on an error in the third inning, then took second on a wild pitch, he said, “Everything was fine.”

Then Will Middlebrooks, who was also in Pawtucket on a rehab assignment, launched a fly ball to deep right field, and Victorino went back to second to tag up.

“As soon as I stepped and got off the bag to go to third, that’s when I felt that instant grab in my back,” Victorino said. “The sudden turn slipped the disk out.”

After being on the disabled list since May 24 with a hamstring injury, his back was another frustrating setback. He received an epidural last week. After the Red Sox hoped to have him back at some point during the last road trip, the timetable for Victorino’s return is now unclear.

“Obviously, I think we’re going to try to take a slow approach to this with regards to it obviously being a back [injury],” Victorino said. “Slow but aggressive. We’re going to try to get out there as fast as we can, but yet we don’t want, with this issue, something to resurface.”

Victorino’s hamstring is fine, he said. And while it would be logical to wonder whether the hamstring injury led to the back issues, Victorino said he didn’t think they were related.

“It’s hard to say,” he said. “You would obviously think that it is, that it’s connected. The hammy, the back, but I think that with that one, the issue that happened was the disk slipped and that’s definitely not because of the hamstring. It’s just one of those things that happened.

“But we got it back, got the shot done, and that brought a lot of relief.”

Sox manager John Farrell said Victorino did some light running before Monday’s game against the Cubs at Fenway Park.

“He’s been getting work in the weight room the last couple days,” Farrell said. “So some of the inflammation and soreness he was feeling when we had to shut him down, that’s starting to resolve itself.”

Although back issues forced Victorino to sit out parts of last season, he said he never had any such issues before.

“This one was different, I think,” Victorino said. “Last year wasn’t so much my disk slipping out. It was just a muscle spasm. That’s why we decided to take the shot and try to calm that area down once the disk was back in place. But everything feels good.”

Victorino didn’t think it would be a recurring issue, but missing a significant chunk of the first half of the season has been frustrating. Looking back, he said, the time he spent inactive after undergoing thumb surgery in December was a “what if” he’s thought about more than enough times.

“Trust me, man, I sit there and I talk about it and I think about it all day long,” Victorino said. “If I didn’t have this surgery, if I didn’t have that two-month period where I had to sit there and not do things with regards to training and keeping myself in shape or getting myself into baseball shape . . . but if I sit there and I think about those things, I’m going to drive myself even crazier than I already am.”

With the Sox six games back in the AL East entering Monday’s game and Victorino only taking the field 21 times, he pointed the finger at himself.

“As I said a few weeks ago, if there’s a bigger culprit for what has gone on up to this point, I’m at the top of the list by not being on the field,” Victorino said. “But looking at what’s going on, I have every bit of confidence in the guys in the clubhouse to keep continuing doing what they’re doing.”

Victorino is aiming to be back as soon as possible.

“If it was me, it’d be tomorrow,” he said. “Obviously, I want it to be sooner than later, but I think from an aspect of making sure that I’m ready and healthy to play the rest of the way, I have no timeframe. There’s no timetable, but I’m hoping by the end of this homestand. As soon as I can.”

“I’m trying to put all that has happened behind me in this first half and what has gone on and the lingering injuries. I just hope that when I get back, whenever that is, that I get to be healthy the rest of the way.”

Mookie Mania

Mookie Betts, the 21-year-old wunderkind who has been pegged by some as the savior of a 38-44 team in the season’s second half, went 0 for 3 in his first game at Fenway Park, a 2-0 loss to the Cubs.

“I’m not the savior,” Betts, a 5-foot-9-inch, 156-pound prodigy, said before the game. “I’m just here to contribute and do my part.”

Betts still has a lot to learn after logging just 90 at-bats in 23 games at Triple A. The 2011 fifth-round pick spent only 2½ seasons in the minors.

His rise was swift but not unprecedented, and Farrell is unconcerned. He says Betts, who hit .322 for the PawSox, is ready.

“Any time we take a player from the minor leagues, the player’s indicated that his time has arrived based on what he’s done on the minor league level,” Farrell said before the game. “And in Mookie’s case, his ascent through the system has been rapid. He’s met or exceeded every challenge and level along the way.”

Farrell said Betts is part of a five-player rotation that will alternate starts. Betts started in center field Monday; Jackie Bradley Jr. will play there Tuesday.

Drew defended

When he signed with the Sox in May, Stephen Drew made it clear that while he felt he was in baseball condition it would take time for him to find a rhythm at the plate after not seeing major league pitching since last year’s World Series.

In 17 games this season, Drew is still figuring things out at the plate, hitting .133 with 17 strikeouts. In the previous 10 games leading into Monday night, Drew was 2 for 36 with nine strikeouts, although he did break up the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter in the eighth.

Drew’s approach at the plate led Farrell to believe that eventually things would click.

“I think we’re seeing a balanced approach at the plate, yet there’s been a number of pitches where he’s missed, pitches on the plate that are fouled back,” Farrell said. “We’ve also seen some balls he’s squared up. I would hope that coming back here to Fenway Park and being able to use that left-field wall will help him stay online a little bit more at the plate and executing his swing. But he’s going to get regular at-bats and we need him to get on track.”

Victorino looked at the small sample size and the unrealistic expectations and jumped to defend his teammate.

“The guy at short, everybody’s harping on him,” Victorino said. “If we look at the big picture, the guy’s had — you know, it’s not even spring training for him — the guy’s had 40 at-bats this season. Of course you’re going to struggle. Like he said and we said, let’s not expect him to go out there and be all of a sudden the answer. You’ve got to look at what he does and what he brings, that’s good defense at shortstop. He solidifies that part of the diamond. Hopefully he’ll get the bat going, which I think he will.”

Lester: No reopening

Jon Lester denied an ESPN report Sunday that claimed the ace and the Red Sox had reopened contract talks.

“I don’t think they’ve started anything. I know the conversation has been there throughout the season with different topics,” Lester said. “Like I said from the beginning of the season, the conversations were amicable and conversations continued. Nothing as far as contract or numbers or anything like that.”

Lester wants the focus to remain on the team, which took two out of three in New York over the weekend.

“It’s an added distraction we don’t need right now,’’ he said.

Pierzynski pinch-hits

With the Sox getting in at 4 a.m. Monday, Farrell chose to give A.J. Pierzynski some rest, putting David Ross behind the plate to catch Jake Peavy. Pierzynski pinch-hit and singled in the ninth . . . The flags at Fenway were lowered in honor of late Sox employee Jack Lanzillotti, 28, an in-game production manager who was killed June 21 in a Back Bay accident along with his girlfriend, Jessica Campbell, 27.

Nick Cafardo of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.
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