After crashing into the right-field fence in the fourth inning of the Red Sox’ 12-4 loss to the Blue Jays Sunday, outfielder Shane Victorino has been cleared to play Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Victorino left the game in the seventh inning and afterward was examined at Massachusetts General Hospital. The Red Sox said all tests on his ribs came back negative. The team will wait to see how he feels Tuesday before deciding whether he will play.
The decision to take him out of the game was precautionary, said manager John Farrell. A lower back strain suffered in an April 24 win over the Athletics had forced Victorino to sit seven games. He returned May 3 against the Rangers and has hit .343 in the 10 games since.
A center fielder most of his career, Victorino’s skillful, intuitive, and aggressive style of play in right has been a lift for the Sox. He leads the team with four outfield assists.
He went all-out Sunday chasing down an Emilio Bonifacio home run until he ran out of ground, going full speed into the short fence of the Blue Jays bullpen.
Although he stayed in to take another at-bat, he was ultimately replaced.
“He’s a tough guy, so he’ll be able to grind through some stuff if he’s able to get out there,” said Mike Napoli. “That’s how everyone plays around here. You’ve got to play hard no matter what the score is, what’s going on, how good it’s going or how bad it’s going. You’ve got to go out there and always go hard.”
In almost all of the Red Sox’ 38 games this season, either Junichi Tazawa or Koji Uehara has made an appearance out of the bullpen.
With 18 games under his belt, Tazawa has already pitched in nearly half as many games as the 37 he threw in last season.
Uehara, a 38-year-old veteran, played the same number of games last year and already has 16 appearances this season.
They’re both among the league leaders in relief appearances. While they’ve been healthy and effective early on, Farrell said he will be careful not to overuse them.
“With overall usage, you’re always looking to balance that out and try to monitor their workload, not only in the early going but throughout the course of the year,” Farrell said. “We’d like to think we’d keep any one of our relievers out of the top 10 in the league, but Junichi’s up there. We know that.
“It’s also, I think, a little bit of the function of the April that we had. There’s so many games where we were leading late, we had to go to him multiple times, he and Koji both. So I think in time, with the role that he’s in now, that’ll start to probably come back to the pack a little bit.”
With Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan battling injuries, the roles have been fluid for the two relievers.
Tazawa (2-2, 3.31 ERA, 21 strikeouts, 16⅓ innings) slid into the closer role a week ago after typically working the seventh inning. Uehara (2.45 ERA, 20 strikeouts) had been strong as a middle reliever, starting the season with seven straight scoreless outings, and became the setup man the first time Hanrahan landed on the disabled list.
“They’re the same guys,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “From spring training to now, they’ve got the same routine, same timing. They approach it the same way from the ninth inning to the seventh to the eighth. They haven’t changed anything. They’re still the same.”
The Sox outscored the Rays, 10-3, in a three-game sweep last month in which the Rays mustered just 13 hits . . . Tuesday night John Lackey will make his first start against Tampa since Sept. 9, 2011, when he gave up five runs over three innings in a 7-2 loss . . . Rays starter Matt Moore is unbeaten this season (6-0, 2.14 ERA). He’s allowed six earned runs in his last two starts.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.